Homologous chromosomes from the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum exhibit striking size polymorphism from isolate to isolate. To examine the structural basis for these variations, we have determined full-length restriction maps of chromosome 4 from three P. falciparum clones. Two clones, HB3 and 3D7, are derived from geographically distant strains, while the third, XP5, is the product of an HB3 3D7 cross. The restriction maps show that, while the overall structure and organization of chromosome 4 from each clone are similar, large-scale variations occur within a few hundred kilobase pairs of the chromosome ends. An apparent crossover between the 3D7 and the HB3 parent chromosomes accounts for a chromosome of intermediate size in clone XP5. Similar restriction studies extended to other parasite chromosomes will ultimately yield a long-range physical map of the P. falciparum genome.
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