Plasmodium vivax and Plasmodium knowlesi merozites invade only Duffy blood group-positive human erythrocytes. Soluble P. vivax and P. knowlesi merozoite proteins of 135 kDa bind specifically to Duffy blood group determinants. The gene encoding a member of the Duffy receptor gene family of P. knowlesi has been cloned. We report here the molecular cloning of the presumptive Duffy receptor gene of P. vivax, using the P. knowlesi gene as a probe. There is a single gene in P. vivax which codes for a protein of 1115 amino acids. The deduced amino acid sequence predicts a putative signal sequence at the amino-terminus and a transmembrane region followed by 45 amino acids at the carboxy-terminus. The three introns found at the 3′ end of the P. knowlesi gene were conserved in P. vivax, including high homology for the sequences of the introns. Comparison of the portion of the proteins amino to the transmembrane region between P. vivax and the partial sequence of P. knowlesi indicated at least three domains. Two homologous regions were separated by a non-homologous region. The cysteines in the homologous regions were conserved in number and position, indicating that the folding is similar and suggesting that these regions may be the Duffy blood group binding domains. In both P. vivax and P. knowlesi, the non-homologous region is hydrophilic and proline-rich, although the position of the prolines is not conserved. As prolines tend to stiffen a protein, this region may act as a 'hinge region' similar to those in the immunoglobulin gene family. © 1991.
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