P. cynomolgi, a malaria-causing parasite of Asian Old World monkeys, is the sister taxon of P. vivax, the most prevalent malaria-causing species in humans outside of Africa. Because P. cynomolgi shares many phenotypic, biological and genetic characteristics with P. vivax, we generated draft genome sequences for three P. cynomolgi strains and performed genomic analysis comparing them with the P. vivax genome, as well as with the genome of a third previously sequenced simian parasite, Plasmodium knowlesi. Here, we show that genomes of the monkey malaria clade can be characterized by copy-number variants (CNVs) in multigene families involved in evasion of the human immune system and invasion of host erythrocytes. We identify genome-wide SNPs, microsatellites and CNVs in the P. cynomolgi genome, providing a map of genetic variation that can be used to map parasite traits and study parasite populations. The sequencing of the P. cynomolgi genome is a critical step in developing a model system for P. vivax research and in counteracting the neglect of P. vivax.
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