Using CoGe for the analysis of Plasmodium spp

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About this guide

This 'cookbook' style document is meant to provide an introduction to many of our tools and services and is structured around a case study of investigating genome evolution of the malaria-causing Plasmodium spp. The small size and unique features of this pathogen's genome make it ideal for beginning to understand how our tools can be used to conduct comparative genomic analyses and uncover meaningful discoveries.

Through a number of example analyses, this guide will teach users about the following tools:

  • LoadGenome: Add a new genome to CoGe.
  • LoadAnnotation: Add structural and/or functional annotations to a genome.
  • GenomeInfo: Get information about a genome.
  • GenomeList: Get information about several genomes in a table.
  • CoGeBLAST: BLAST against any set of genomes.
  • GEvo: Microsynteny analysis.
  • SynMap: Whole genome syntenic analysis.
- SynMap#Calculating_and_displaying_synonymous.2Fnon-synonymous_.28Ks.2C_Kn.29_data: Characterize the evolution of populations of genes.
- SPA tool: Syntenic Path Assembly to assist in genome analysis.
  • SynFind: Identify syntenic genes across multiple genomes.
  • CodeOn: Characterize patterns of codon and amino acid evolution in coding sequence.

A brief introduction to Plasmodium genome evolution

The genus Plasmodium emerged ~40 million years ago and harbors roughly 200 species of parasitic protozoa better known as malaria parasites. All Plasmodium species have a complex life cycle involving some kind of vertebrate host and a mosquito vector. In addition, Plasmodium species share similar life cycle characteristics, albeit with a few exceptions (e.g. hypnozoites). Plasmodium genomes are tiny (between 17-28Mb) in comparison to those of their vertebrate (1Gb for birds; 2-3Gb for mammals) and mosquito (230–284Mbp) hosts [1]. All Plasmodium genomes consist of fourteen chromosomes (nuclear genome), as well as a mitochondrial and apicoplast genome. Despite these shared genomic characteristics, the structural organization, gene content, and sequence of Plasmodium genomes is highly variably within the genus [2]. The exact origins and mechanisms of these differences remain largely unexplored, however, they are generally hypothesized to stem from host shift events [3][4].

An increase in funding devoted to malaria research has coincided with a dramatic increase in publicly available genomic information for Plasmodium [5]. The most prominent repository is found at NCBI/Genbank [6]; while additional and unique sequences can also be found on other databases: PlasmoDB [7], GeneDB [8], and MalAvi [9]. This wealth of genomic data facilitates detailed comparative genomic approaches, opening the possibility to:

  • Infer origins of certain traits, specialized phenotypes, and genomic features.
  • Track the maintenance of conserved genes across the genus, as well as the gain or loss of genes unique to a single species or a group of closely related species.
  • Identify the potential historical interactions that might have lead to the development of genomic adaptations.

Finding and integrating Plasmodium genomes in CoGe

You can find the details of Plasmodium genome integration in the following link: Finding and intregating Plasmodium genomes to CoGe

Using CoGe tools to perform comparative analyses


The following links direct to specific tools for the comparative analysis of Plasmodium genomes:

Plasmodium analysis workflow 1: Tools that evaluate genomic properties and amino acid usage

Plasmodium analysis workflow 2: Tools for the syntenic analysis of whole genomes and microsyntenic regions

Plasmodium analysis workflow 3: Tools useful on the study of multigene families

Additional tools for genome analysis with CoGe

You can learn about the SPA usage on Plasmodium genomes in the following link: Plasmodium genome analysis using Syntenic Path Assembly

Overall conclusions

Insights into the unique patterns of Plasmodium biology, epidemiology, ecology, and genetics can be obtained from molecular and comparative genomic studies. The rapid growth of genomic information makes implementing tools that facilitate assessing genome evolutionary trends an imperative task. The services and tools provided by the CoGe platform are of considerable use in advancing Plasmodium comparative genomics. Here, we showed how various CoGe tools could be used to assess evolutionary patterns unique to Plasmodium. We also showed how to use this platform to further characterize sequenced Plasmodium genomes. Overall, we have demonstrated that CoGe’s tools can be used to address evolutionary questions such as:

  • The evolutionary origins of Laveranian AT-rich genomes.
  • The location and nature of genome rearrangements between Plasmodium.
  • The evolutionary patterns of genes crucial in cell invasion.
  • The evolutionary trends of multigene families.

Useful links

Plasmodium Notebooks in CoGe

Link to Notebook for published Plasmodium genome data:
Link to Notebook for published P. falciparum strains:
Link to Notebook for published P. vivax strains:
Link to Notebook for published Plasmodium apicoplast data:
Link to Notebook for published Plasmodium mitochondrion data:

Sample data

  • Gene sequences used on CoGeBLAST analysis (obtained from PlasmoDB):
PVX_113230.1 | Plasmodium vivax Sal-1 | variable surface protein Vir14-related (
PVX_096004.1 | Plasmodium vivax Sal-1 | VIR protein (
  • Gene sequence used on SynFind to inform GEvo analysis (obtained from PlasmoDB):
PVX_003830.1 | Plasmodium vivax Sal-1 | serine-repeat antigen 5 (SERA) (
  • Gene sequences used on CoGeBLAST to inform GEvo analysis (obtained from PlasmoDB):
PF3D7_0424100.1 | Plasmodium falciparum 3D7 | reticulocyte binding protein homologue 5 (
PVX_096410.1 | Plasmodium vivax Sal-1 | cysteine repeat modular protein 2, putative (


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  3. Prugnolle F, Durand P, Ollomo B, Duval L, Ariey F, Arnathau C, Gonzalez JP, Leroy E, Renaud F. 2011. A Fresh Look at the Origin of Plasmodium falciparum, the Most Malignant Malaria Agent. PLoS Pathog. 7: e1001283.
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  5. Buscaglia CA, Kissinger JC, Agüero F. 2015. Neglected Tropical Diseases in the Post-Genomic Era. Trends Genet. 31:539-55.
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  8. Logan-Klumpler FJ, De Silva N, Boehme U, Rogers MB, Velarde G, McQuillan JA, Carver T, Aslett M, Olsen C, Subramanian S, Phan I, Farris C, Mitra S, Ramasamy G, Wang H, Tivey A, Jackson A, Houston R, Parkhill J, Holden M, Harb OS, Brunk BP, Myler PJ, Roos D, Carrington M, Smith DF, Hertz-Fowler C, Berriman M. 2012. GeneDB--an annotation database for pathogens. Nucleic Acids Res. 40:D98-108.
  9. Bensch S, Hellgren O, Pérez-Tris J. 2009. MalAvi: a public database of malaria parasites and related haemosporidian in avian hosts based on mitochondrial cytochrome b lineages. Mol Ecol Resour. 9:1353-8.