Antimicrobial agents and chemotherapy

Defining the role of mutations in Plasmodium vivax dihydrofolate reductase-thymidylate synthase gene using an episomal Plasmodium falciparum transfection system.

PMID 20566761


Plasmodium vivax resistance to antifolates is prevalent throughout Australasia and is caused by point mutations within the parasite dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR)-thymidylate synthase. Several unique mutations have been reported in P. vivax DHFR, and their roles in resistance to classic and novel antifolates are not entirely clear due, in part, to the inability to culture P. vivax in vitro. In this study, we use a homologous system to episomally express both wild-type and various mutant P. vivax dhfr (pvdhfr) alleles in an antifolate-sensitive line of P. falciparum and to assess their influences on the susceptibility of the recipient P. falciparum line to commonly used and new antifolate drugs. Although the wild-type pvdhfr-transfected P. falciparum line was as susceptible to antifolate drugs as the P. falciparum parent line, the single (117N), double (57L/117T and 58R/117T), and quadruple (57L/58R/61M/117T) mutant pvdhfr alleles conferred a marked reduction in their susceptibilities to antifolates. The resistance index increased with the number of mutations in these alleles, indicating that these mutations contribute to antifolate resistance directly. In contrast, the triple mutant allele (58R/61M/117T) significantly reversed the resistance to all antifolates, indicating that 61M may be a compensatory mutation. These findings help elucidate the mechanism of antifolate resistance and the effect of existing mutations in the parasite population on the current and new generation of antifolate drugs. It also demonstrates that the episomal transfection system has the potential to provide a rapid screening system for drug development and for studying drug resistance mechanisms in P. vivax.