Researchers overcame significant technical challenges on the way to this accomplishment. Perhaps because of its unusual composition, Plasmodium's genetic material cannot be separated into a mixture of long, medium, and short lengths. Rather, the parasite's DNA breaks up into very short lengths only. Placing such tiny strips back into their original sequence is difficult, just as repairing a vase that has smashed into hundreds of bits is harder than fixing one broken into a few large pieces.
"This detailed map of the parasite's 5,300 genes and their predicted functions is a milestone in malaria research. The information it provides will enable investigators to design anti-malarial drugs targeted precisely to areas of genetic vulnerability," says Michael Gottlieb, Ph.D., chief of NIAID's parasitology and international programs branch.
In 1999, NIAID joined the Anopheles Gambiae Genome Consortium (AGGC) to accelerate sequencing of Anopheles' 14,000 genes. Sequencing was performed at Genoscope with funds from the French government and at the Celera Genomics Group in Rockville, MD. Other institutions contributing to the effort include World Health Organization's Special Program of Research on Tropical Diseases; Germany's European Molecular Biology Laboratory; the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology in Crete; the Institut Pasteur in Paris; TIGR; and the universities of Iowa, Rome, Notre Dame, and Texas A&M. In August 2001, NIAID expanded its support for Anopheles genome sequencing with a $9 million award to Celera Genomic
Contact: Anne A. Oplinger
NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases