Whole-genome analysis of Plasmodium falciparum isolates to understand allele-specific immunity to malaria
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AbstractAfter repeated P. falciparum infections, individuals in high-transmission areas acquire clinical immunity to malaria. However, the genes important in determining allele-specific immunity are not entirely known. Previous genome-wide approaches explored signatures of selection in the parasite genome to identify targets of clinical immunity; however, these approaches did not account for individual level allele-specific immunity. Here we take a whole-genome approach to identify genes that may be involved in acquisition of allele-specific immunity to malaria by analyzing parasite genomes collected from infected individuals in Malawi. However, obtaining whole genome sequence data from clinical samples is one of the major hurdles in the field of malaria genomics. In order to obtain whole genome sequence data from non-leukocyte depleted, low parasitemia samples, we optimized a selective-whole genome amplification (sWGA) by filtering the DNA prior to sWGA, to generate high coverage, whole genome sequence data from P. falciparum clinical samples with low amounts of parasite DNA. Using this optimized approach, we successfully performed whole-genome sequencing on 202 parasite isolates. We compared parasite genomes from individuals with varying levels of clinical immunity, defined using an individual’s proportion of symptomatic infections during the course of the study, hypothesizing that individuals with higher immunity become symptomatically ill due to infection with parasites with less common alleles. Using FST, we identified 161 SNPs to be genetically differentiated between the two groups and the median allele frequency was significantly lower at these sites in individuals in higher immunity group compared to the lower immunity group. We also examined pairs of parasites collected at different time points from the same individuals and identified 225 loci in 174 genes that vary within same individuals more often than expected by chance. Using both of these approaches, we identified 25 genes that encode likely targets of immunity, including a known antigen, CLAG8. Further analysis of clag8 global diversity showed evidence of immune selection in the C-terminal region, supporting the use of this approach in identification of new vaccine targets. Identifying and further analyzing these genomic regions will provide insights into mechanisms involved in allele-specific acquired immunity.
University of Maryland, Baltimore
Whole Genome Sequencing