BACKGROUND: The simian malaria parasite Plasmodium knowlesi has been reported to cause significant numbers of human infection in South East Asia. Its merozoite surface protein-3 (MSP3) is a protein that belongs to a multi-gene family of proteins first found in Plasmodium falciparum. Several studies have evaluated the potential of P. falciparum MSP3 as a potential vaccine candidate. However, to date no detailed studies have been carried out on P. knowlesi MSP3 gene (pkmsp3). The present study investigates the genetic diversity, and haplotypes groups of pkmsp3 in P. knowlesi clinical samples from Peninsular Malaysia.
METHODS: Blood samples were collected from P. knowlesi malaria patients within a period of 4 years (2008-2012). The pkmsp3 gene of the isolates was amplified via PCR, and subsequently cloned and sequenced. The full length pkmsp3 sequence was divided into Domain A and Domain B. Natural selection, genetic diversity, and haplotypes of pkmsp3 were analysed using MEGA6 and DnaSP ver. 5.10.00 programmes.
RESULTS: From 23 samples, 48 pkmsp3 sequences were successfully obtained. At the nucleotide level, 101 synonymous and 238 non-synonymous mutations were observed. Tests of neutrality were not significant for the full length, Domain A or Domain B sequences. However, the dN/dS ratio of Domain B indicates purifying selection for this domain. Analysis of the deduced amino acid sequences revealed 42 different haplotypes. Neighbour Joining phylogenetic tree and haplotype network analyses revealed that the haplotypes clustered into two distinct groups.
CONCLUSIONS: A moderate level of genetic diversity was observed in the pkmsp3 and only the C-terminal region (Domain B) appeared to be under purifying selection. The separation of the pkmsp3 into two haplotype groups provides further evidence of the existence of two distinct P. knowlesi types or lineages. Future studies should investigate the diversity of pkmsp3 among P. knowlesi isolates in North Borneo, where large numbers of human knowlesi malaria infection still occur.
* Title and MeSH Headings from MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.