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The dihydrofolate reductase-thymidylate synthase (DHFR-TS) bifunctional complex from pyrimethamine-sensitive (3D7) and drug-resistant (HB3 and 7G8) clones from Plasmodium falciparum was purified to homogeneity. A modified sequence of purification steps with a 10-formylfolate affinity column at its center, allows the isolation of the enzyme complex with a 10-fold higher yield than previously reported, irrespective of the pyrimethamine resistance of the parasites. Titration of the homogenous DHFR-TS complex with the inhibitor revealed a 500-fold lower affinity of the enzyme from clone 7G8 for the drug than found with the enzyme from clone 3D7. Direct comparison of the homogenous enzyme preparations on SDS-PAGE revealed no difference in the molecular mass of the DHFR-TS from the 3 clones, nor could a reproducible difference be detected in the peptide patterns obtained after digesting the DHFR-TS complex with various proteases. The amplification of segments from the DHFR-TS coding region of the 3 clones and 7 isolates of P. falciparum by polymerase chain reaction resulted in fragments of the predicted length without any size heterogeneity. The DNA sequence of the DHFR coding region from FCR-3, 3D7, HB3 and 7G8 differs in a total of 4 nucleotides. One point mutation changes amino acid residue 108 from threonine (FCR-3) or serine (3D7) to asparagine (HB3 and 7G8). The presence of asparagine-108 appears to be the molecular basis of pyrimethamine resistance of HB3 and 7G8. The degree of resistance is associated with a point mutation affecting the codon for amino acid 51 in 7G8.


J W Zolg, J R Plitt, G X Chen, S Palmer. Point mutations in the dihydrofolate reductase-thymidylate synthase gene as the molecular basis for pyrimethamine resistance in Plasmodium falciparum. Molecular and biochemical parasitology. 1989 Oct;36(3):253-62

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PMID: 2677719

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