The unicellular parasite Plasmodium falciparum is the cause of human malaria, resulting in 1.7-2.5 million deaths each year. To develop new means to treat or prevent malaria, the Malaria Genome Consortium was formed to sequence and annotate the entire 24.6-Mb genome. The plan, already underway, is to sequence libraries created from chromosomal DNA separated by pulsed- field gel electrophoresis (PFGE). The AT-rich genome of P. falciparum presents problems in terms of reliable library construction and the relative paucity of dense physical markers or extensive genetic resources. To deal with these problems, we reasoned that a high-resolution, ordered restriction map covering the entire genome could serve as a scaffold for the alignment and verification of sequence contigs developed by members of the consortium. Thus optical mapping was advanced to use simply extracted, unfractionated genomic DNA as its principal substrate. Ordered restriction maps (BamHI and Nhel) derived from single molecules were assembled into 14 deep contigs corresponding to the molecular karyotype determined by PFGE (ref. 3).
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