Population structuring of multi-copy, antigen-encoding genes in plasmodium falciparum

Yael Artzy-Randrup, Mary M. Rorick, Karen Day, Donald Chen, Andrew P. Dobson, Mercedes Pascual

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


The coexistence of multiple independently circulating strains in pathogen populations that undergo sexual recombination is a central question of epidemiology with profound implications for control. An agent-based model is developed that extends earlier 'strain theory' by addressing the var gene family of Plasmodium falciparum. The model explicitly considers the extensive diversity of multi-copy genes that undergo antigenic variation via sequential, mutually exclusive expression. It tracks the dynamics of all unique var repertoires in a population of hosts, and shows that even under high levels of sexual recombination, strain competition mediated through cross-immunity structures the parasite population into a subset of coexisting dominant repertoires of var genes whose degree of antigenic overlap depends on transmission intensity. Empirical comparison of patterns of genetic variation at antigenic and neutral sites supports this role for immune selection in structuring parasite diversity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00093
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 18 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Neuroscience


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