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BACKGROUND: The 2022 malaria report WHO reported around 4000 P. knowlesi infections in the South-East Asia Region. In the same period, 72 positive cases were reported by MOPH Thailand, suggesting a persistent infection. Little is known about dihydrofolate reductase (pkdhfr) dihydropteroate synthetase (pkdhps), putative antimalarial resistance markers for P. knowlesi. The relevant amplification and sequencing protocol are presently unavailable. In this study, we developed a protocol for amplifying and evaluating pkdhps mutations. The haplotype pattern of pkdhfr-pkdhps in Thai isolates was analyzed, and the effects of these pkdhps mutations were predicted by using a computer program. METHODS: Pkdhps were amplified and sequenced from 28 P. knowlesi samples collected in 2008 and 2020 from nine provinces across Thailand. Combining pkdhfr sequencing data from previous work with pkdhps data to analyze polymorphisms of pkdhfr and pkdhps haplotype. Protein modeling and molecular docking were constructed using two inhibitors, sulfadoxine and sulfamethoxazole, and further details were obtained through analyses of protein-ligand interactions by using the Genetic Optimization for Ligand Docking program. A phylogenetic tree cluster analysis was reconstructed to compare the P. knowlesi Malaysia isolates. RESULTS: Five nonsynonymous mutations in the pkdhps were detected outside the equivalence of the binding pocket sites to sulfadoxine and sulfamethoxazole, which are at N391S, E421G, I425R, A449S, and N517S. Based on the modeling and molecular docking analyses, the N391S and N517S mutations located close to the enzyme-binding pocket demonstrated a different docking score and protein-ligand interaction in loop 2 of the enzyme. These findings indicated that it was less likely to induce drug resistance. Of the four haplotypes of pkdhfr-pkdhps, the most common one is the R34L pkdhfr mutation and the pkdhps quadruple mutation (GRSS) at E421G, I425R, A449S, and N517S, which were observed in P. knowlesi in southern Thailand (53.57%). Based on the results of neighbor-joining analysis for pkdhfr and pkdhps, the samples isolated from eastern Thailand displayed a close relationship with Cambodia isolates, while southern Thailand isolates showed a long branch separated from the Malaysian isolates. CONCLUSIONS: A new PCR protocol amplification and evaluation of dihydropteroate synthetase mutations in Knowlesi (pkdhps) has been developed. The most prevalent pkdhfr-pkdhps haplotypes (53.57%) in southern Thailand are R34L pkdhfr mutation and pkdhps quadruple mutation. Further investigation requires additional phenotypic data from clinical isolates, transgenic lines expressing mutant alleles, or recombinant proteins.

Original publication




Journal article


Acta Trop

Publication Date



Plasmodium knowlesi, pkdhfr, pkdhps