Plasmodium knowlesi contributes to the majority of human malaria incidences in Malaysia. Its uncontrollable passage among the natural monkey hosts can potentially lead to zoonotic outbreaks. The merozoite of this parasite invades host erythrocytes through interaction between its erythrocyte-binding proteins (EBPs) and their respective receptor on the erythrocytes. The regionII of P. knowlesi EBP, P. knowlesi beta (PkβII) protein is found to be mediating merozoite invasion into monkey erythrocytes by interacting with sialic acid receptors. Hence, the objective of this study was to investigate the genetic diversity, natural selection and haplotype grouping of PkβII of P. knowlesi isolates in Malaysia. Polymerase chain reaction amplifications of PkβII were performed on archived blood samples from Malaysia and 64 PkβII sequences were obtained. Sequence analysis revealed length polymorphism, and its amino acids at critical residues indicate the ability of PkβII to mediate P. knowlesi invasion into monkey erythrocytes. Low genetic diversity (π = 0.007) was observed in the PkβII of Malaysia Borneo compared to Peninsular Malaysia (π = 0.015). The PkβII was found to be under strong purifying selection to retain infectivity in monkeys and it plays a limited role in the zoonotic potential of P. knowlesi. Its haplotypes could be clustered into Peninsular Malaysia and Malaysia Borneo groups, indicating the existence of two distinct P. knowlesi parasites in Malaysia as reported in an earlier study.
* Title and MeSH Headings from MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.