Gene copy number and malaria biology
Alteration in gene copy number provides a simple way to change expression levels and alter phenotype. This was fully appreciated by bacteriologists more than 25 years ago, but the extent and implications of copy number polymorphism (CNP) have only recently become apparent in other organisms. New methods demonstrate the ubiquity of CNPs in eukaryotes and their medical importance in humans. CNP is also widespread in the Plasmodium falciparum genome and has an important and underappreciated role in determining phenotype. In this review, we summarize the distribution of CNP, its evolutionary dynamics within populations, its functional importance and its mode of evolution.