Avian malaria is of significant ecological importance and serves as a model system to study broad patterns of host switching and host specificity. The erythrocyte invasion mechanism of the malaria parasite Plasmodium is mediated, in large part, by proteins of the erythrocyte-binding-like (ebl) family of genes. However, little is known about how these genes are conserved across different species of Plasmodium, especially those that infect birds. Using bioinformatical methods in conjunction with polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and genetic sequencing, we identified and annotated one member of the ebl family, merozoite apical erythrocyte-binding ligand (maebl), from the chicken parasite Plasmodium gallinaceum. We then detected the expression of maebl in P. gallinaceum by PCR analysis of cDNA isolated from the blood of infected chickens. We found that maebl is a conserved orthologous gene in avian, mammalian, and rodent Plasmodium species. The duplicate extracellular binding domains of MAEBL, responsible for erythrocyte binding, are the most conserved regions. Our combined data corroborate the conservation of maebl throughout the Plasmodium genus and may help elucidate the mechanisms of erythrocyte invasion in P. gallinaceum and the host specificity of Plasmodium parasites.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Infectious Diseases