The apical membrane antigen-1 (AMA-1) of Plasmodium spp. is a merozoite surface antigen that is essential for the recognition and invasion of erythrocytes. Polymorphisms occurring in this surface antigen will cause major obstacles in developing effective malaria vaccines based on AMA-1. The objective of this study was to characterize ama1 gene in Plasmodium knowlesi isolates from Sabah. DNA was extracted from blood samples collected from Keningau, Kota Kinabalu and Kudat. The Pkama1 gene was amplified using nested PCR and subjected to bidirectional sequencing. Analysis of DNA sequence revealed that most of the nucleotide polymorphisms were synonymous and concentrated in domain I of PkAMA-1. Forteen haplotypes were identified based on amino acid variations and haplotype K5 was the most common haplotype. dN/dS ratios implied that purifying selection was prevalent in Pkama1 gene. Fu and Li’s D and F values further provided evidence of negative selection acting on domain II ofPkama1. Lownucleotide diversitywas also detected for the Pkama1 sequences,which is similar to reports on Pkama1 from Peninsular Malaysia and Sarawak. The presence of purifying selection and low nucleotide diversity indicated that domain II of Pkama1 can be used as a target for vaccine development.
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