Detecting adaptive molecular evolution: additional tools for the parasitologist

James O McInerney, D Timothy J Littlewood, Christopher J Creevey

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Abstract

It is likely that infectious diseases have shaped the evolution of many vertebrates, including humans. The etiological agents of disease continuously strive to evade the immune response and the immune response, in turn, seeks to change in order to keep pace with the invaders. This 'arms race' may be characterized by the selection for new variant hosts and new variant parasites. Here we discuss the utility of phylogenetics in detecting adaptive evolution at the molecular level and, for illustration, we concentrate on a family of surface-exposed proteins (the rifins) found in the recently sequenced genome of Plasmodium falciparum. We employed phylogeny-based methods in order to characterize adaptive evolution in these proteins. We found evidence for adaptive evolution in many of the amino acid residues in at least one lineage. These results indicate that there has been selection for those strains of P. falciparum that contain the new genotypes. These proteins are likely to be of great importance for the survival of the parasite. Studies of the interaction of these proteins with the antigen-presenting cells of the immune system should lead to a better understanding of malarial infection.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)359-379
Number of pages21
JournalAdvances in Parasitology
Volume54
Early online date20 Dec 2003
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2003

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