U.S. Department of Defense


Date of this Version



Published in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (June 2008) 52:6, p. 2212–2222. DOI:10.1128/AAC.00089-08


Mutations in the chloroquine resistance (CQR) transporter gene of Plasmodium falciparum (Pfcrt; chromosome 7) play a key role in CQR, while mutations in the multidrug resistance gene (Pfmdr1; chromosome 5) play a significant role in the parasite’s resistance to a variety of antimalarials and also modulate CQR. To compare patterns of genetic variation at Pfcrt and Pfmdr1 loci, we investigated 460 blood samples from P. falciparum infected patients from four Asian, three African, and three South American countries, analyzing microsatellite (MS) loci flanking Pfcrt (five loci [[1]40 kb]) and Pfmdr1 (either two loci [~5 kb] or four loci [~10 kb]). CQR Pfmdr1 allele-associated MS haplotypes showed considerably higher genetic diversity and higher levels of subdivision than CQR Pfcrt allele-associated MS haplotypes in both Asian and African parasite populations. However, both Pfcrt and Pfmdr1 MS haplotypes showed similar levels of low diversity in South American parasite populations. Median-joining network analyses showed that the Pfcrt MS haplotypes correlated well with geography and CQR Pfcrt alleles, whereas there was no distinct Pfmdr1 MS haplotype that correlated with geography and/or CQR Pfmdr1 alleles. Furthermore, multiple independent origins of CQR Pfmdr1 alleles in Asia and Africa were inferred. These results suggest that variation at Pfcrt and Pfmdr1 loci in both Asian and African parasite populations is generated and/or maintained via substantially different mechanisms. Since Pfmdr1 mutations may be associated with resistance to artemisinin combination therapies that are replacing CQ, particularly in Africa, it is important to determine if, and how, the genetic characteristics of this locus change over time.