Whole genome sequencing identifies novel mutations in malaria parasites resistant to artesunate (ATN) and to ATN + mefloquine combination

Gustavo Capatti Cassiano, Axel Martinelli, Melina Mottin, Bruno Junior Neves, Carolina Horta Andrade, Pedro Eduardo Ferreira, Pedro Cravo

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Introduction: The global evolution of resistance to Artemisinin-based Combination Therapies (ACTs) by malaria parasites, will severely undermine our ability to control this devastating disease. Methods: Here, we have used whole genome sequencing to characterize the genetic variation in the experimentally evolved Plasmodium chabaudi parasite clone AS-ATNMF1, which is resistant to artesunate + mefloquine. Results and discussion: Five novel single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were identified, one of which was a previously undescribed E738K mutation in a 26S proteasome subunit that was selected for under artesunate pressure (in AS-ATN) and retained in AS-ATNMF1. The wild type and mutated three-dimensional (3D) structure models and molecular dynamics simulations of the P. falciparum 26S proteasome subunit Rpn2 suggested that the E738K mutation could change the toroidal proteasome/cyclosome domain organization and change the recognition of ubiquitinated proteins. The mutation in the 26S proteasome subunit may therefore contribute to altering oxidation-dependent ubiquitination of the MDR-1 and/or K13 proteins and/or other targets, resulting in changes in protein turnover. In light of the alarming increase in resistance to artemisin derivatives and ACT partner drugs in natural parasite populations, our results shed new light on the biology of resistance and provide information on novel molecular markers of resistance that may be tested (and potentially validated) in the field.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1353057
JournalFrontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • artemisinin combination treatment
  • drug resistance
  • genomics
  • molecular dynamics simulations
  • plasmodium


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