Malaria: Looking for selection signatures in the human PKLR gene region

Patrícia Machado, Rui Pereira, Ana Mafalda Rocha, Licínio Manco, Natércia Fernandes, Juliana Miranda, Letícia Ribeiro, Virgílio E. Do Rosário, António Amorim, Leonor Gusmão, Ana Paula Arez

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The genetic component of susceptibility to malaria is both complex and multigenic and the better-known protective polymorphisms are those involving erythrocyte-specific structural proteins and enzymes. In vivo and in vitro data have suggested that pyruvate kinase deficiency, which causes a nonspherocytic haemolytic anaemia, could be protective against malaria severity in humans, but this hypothesis remains to be tested. In the present study, we conducted a combined analysis of Short Tandem Repeats (STRs) and Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) in the pyruvate kinase-encoding gene (PKLR) and adjacent regions (chromosome 1q21) to look for malaria selective signatures in two sub-Saharan African populations from Angola and Mozambique, in several groups with different malaria infection outcome. A European population from Portugal, including a control and a pyruvate kinase-deficient group, was used for comparison. Data from STR and SNP loci spread along the PKLR gene region showed a considerably higher differentiation between African and Portuguese populations than that usually found for neutral markers. In addition, a wider region showing strong linkage disequilibrium was found in an uncomplicated malaria group, and a haplotype was found to be associated with this clinical group. Altogether, this data suggests that malaria selective pressure is acting in this genomic region.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)775-784
Number of pages10
JournalBritish Journal Of Haematology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2010


  • Human malaria
  • Molecular markers
  • PKLR
  • Pyruvate kinase-deficiency
  • Selection signatures

UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-Being

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