Why are male malaria parasites in such a rush?: Sex-specific evolution and host-parasite interactions

Khan, S. M., Reece, S. E., Waters, A. P. , Janse, C. J. and Kaczanowski, S. (2012) Why are male malaria parasites in such a rush?: Sex-specific evolution and host-parasite interactions. Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health, 2013(1), pp. 3-13. (doi: 10.1093/emph/eos003) (PMID:24481180) (PMCID:PMC4183958)

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Background: Disease-causing organisms are notorious for fast rates of molecular evolution and the ability to adapt rapidly to changes in their ecology. Sex plays a key role in evolution, and recent studies, in humans and other multicellular organisms, document that genes expressed principally or exclusively in males exhibit the fastest rates of adaptive evolution. However, despite the importance of sexual reproduction for many unicellular taxa, sex-biased gene expression and its evolutionary implications have been overlooked. Methods: We analyse genomic data from multiple malaria parasite (Plasmodium) species and proteomic data sets from different parasite life cycle stages. Results: The accelerated evolution of male-biased genes has only been examined in multicellular taxa, but our analyses reveal that accelerated evolution in genes with male-specific expression is also a feature of unicellular organisms. This ‘fast-male’ evolution is adaptive and likely facilitated by the male-biased sex ratio of gametes in the mating pool. Furthermore, we propose that the exceptional rates of evolution we observe are driven by interactions between males and host immune responses. Conclusions: We reveal a novel form of host–parasite coevolution that enables parasites to evade host immune responses that negatively impact upon fertility. The identification of parasite genes with accelerated evolution has important implications for the identification of drug and vaccine targets. Specifically, vaccines targeting males will be more vulnerable to parasite evolution than those targeting females or both sexes.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Waters, Professor Andy
Authors: Khan, S. M., Reece, S. E., Waters, A. P., Janse, C. J., and Kaczanowski, S.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Infection & Immunity
Journal Name:Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health
Publisher:Oxford University Press
ISSN (Online):2050-6201
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2012 The Authors
First Published:First published in Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health 2013(1):3-13
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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