Gene Conversion Explains Elevated Diversity in the Immunity Modulating APL1 Gene of the Malaria Vector Anopheles funestus

Jack Hearn, Jacob M Riveron, Helen Irving, Gareth D Weedall, Charles S Wondji

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Leucine-rich repeat proteins and antimicrobial peptides are the key components of the innate immune response to Plasmodium and other microbial pathogens in Anopheles mosquitoes. The APL1 gene of the malaria vector Anopheles funestus has exceptional levels of non-synonymous polymorphism across the range of An. funestus, with an average πn of 0.027 versus a genome-wide average of 0.002, and πn is consistently high in populations across Africa. Elevated APL1 diversity was consistent between the independent pooled-template and target-enrichment datasets, however no link between APL1 diversity and insecticide resistance was observed. Although lacking the diversity of APL1, two further mosquito innate-immunity genes of the gambicin anti-microbial peptide family had πn/πs ratios greater than one, possibly driven by either positive or balancing selection. The cecropin antimicrobial peptides were expressed much more highly than other anti-microbial peptide genes, a result discordant with current models of anti-microbial peptide activity. The observed APL1 diversity likely results from gene conversion between paralogues, as evidenced by shared polymorphisms, overlapping read mappings, and recombination events among paralogues. In conclusion, we hypothesize that higher gene expression of APL1 than its paralogues is correlated with a more open chromatin formation, which enhances gene conversion and elevated diversity at this locus.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1102
Issue number6
Early online date20 Jun 2022
Publication statusFirst published - 20 Jun 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Animals
  • Anopheles/genetics
  • Gene Conversion
  • Insect Proteins/genetics
  • Malaria/genetics
  • Mosquito Vectors/genetics
  • mosquito biology
  • population genomics
  • immunogenetics
  • gene conversion
  • elevated diversity
  • vector biology
  • parasite–host interactions


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