Genetic and metabolic analysis of folate salvage in the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum

Ping Wang, Niroshini Nirmalan, Qi Wang, Paul F G Sims, John E. Hyde

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Antifolate drugs that target the biosynthesis and processing of essential folate cofactors are widely used for treatment of chloroquine-resistant falciparum malaria. Salvage of pre-formed folate can strongly compromise the efficacy of these drugs in vitro and the availability of folate from the human host in natural infections also influences therapeutic outcomes. To investigate how different parasite lines respond to the presence of exogenous folate, we measured the effect of the latter on the susceptibility of parasites to sulfa-drug blockage of folate biosynthesis, utilising the parents and 22 progeny of the HB3-Dd2 genetic cross of Plasmodium falciparum, together with selected unrelated lines. Complete linkage of the folate utilisation phenotype was observed to a DNA sequence of 48.6kb lying between nucleotide positions 738,489 and 787,058 of chromosome 4 and encompassing the dihydrofolate reductase-thymidylate synthase (dhfr-ts) gene locus. Examination of the putative ORFs on this fragment upstream (3) and downstream (4) of dhfr-ts revealed no plausible candidate genes for folate processing. Similarly, a marked heterogeneity in the 5′-UTR regions of Dd2 and HB3, manifest as a directly repeated 256bp sequence in the former, also did not correlate with the folate utilisation phenotype nor apparently influence levels of dhfr-ts transcripts or protein products. By contrast, the nature of the coding sequence of the dhfr domain appeared to play a direct role, with the single mutant (S108N) HB3-type utilising folic acid much less efficiently than other allelic variants. We also compared the processing of exogenous folic acid, folinic acid and p-aminobenzoic acid (pABA) in metabolic labelling studies of HB3 and Dd2. These support the view that DHFR is likely to have a low-level folate reductase activity as well as its normal function of reducing dihydrofolate to tetrahydrofolate, and that a significant hurdle in the utilisation of exogenous folic acid is the initial reduction of fully oxidised folic acid to dihydrofolate, an activity that the single mutant enzyme found in HB3 is postulated to perform particularly poorly. This would mirror earlier studies indicating that the DHFR activity of HB3 is also compromised relative to other variants. © 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)77-87
    Number of pages10
    JournalMolecular and biochemical parasitology
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - May 2004


    • (q)RT-PCR
    • Bovine serum albumin
    • BSA
    • DHFR (dhfr)
    • DHFS
    • Dihydrofolate reductase (gene)
    • Dihydrofolate synthase
    • nt
    • Nucleotide
    • Open reading frame
    • ORF
    • p-aminobenzoic acid
    • pABA
    • PBS
    • Phosphate-buffered saline
    • PYR
    • Pyrimethamine


    Dive into the research topics of 'Genetic and metabolic analysis of folate salvage in the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this