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The malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum has a great capacity for evolutionary adaptation to evade host immunity and develop drug resistance. Current understanding of parasite evolution is impeded by the fact that a large fraction of the genome is either highly repetitive or highly variable and thus difficult to analyze using short-read sequencing technologies. Here, we describe a resource of deep sequencing data on parents and progeny from genetic crosses, which has enabled us to perform the first genome-wide, integrated analysis of SNP, indel and complex polymorphisms, using Mendelian error rates as an indicator of genotypic accuracy. These data reveal that indels are exceptionally abundant, being more common than SNPs and thus the dominant mode of polymorphism within the core genome. We use the high density of SNP and indel markers to analyze patterns of meiotic recombination, confirming a high rate of crossover events and providing the first estimates for the rate of non-crossover events and the length of conversion tracts. We observe several instances of meiotic recombination within copy number variants associated with drug resistance, demonstrating a mechanism whereby fitness costs associated with resistance mutations could be compensated and greater phenotypic plasticity could be acquired.

Original publication




Journal article


Genome research

Publication Date





1288 - 1299


MRC Centre for Genomics and Global Health, University of Oxford, Oxford OX3 7BN, United Kingdom; Malaria Programme, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Hinxton CB10 1SA, United Kingdom;