Variation in the multiplication rate of blood stage malaria parasites is often positively correlated with the severity of the disease they cause. The rodent malaria parasite Plasmodium yoelii yoelii has strains with marked differences in multiplication rate and pathogenicity in the blood. We have used genetic analysis by linkage group selection (LGS) to identify genes that determine differences in multiplication rate. Genetic crosses were generated between genetically unrelated, fast- (17XYM) and slowly multiplying (33XC) clones of P. y. yoelii. The uncloned progenies of these crosses were placed under multiplication rate selection in blood infections in mice. The selected progenies were screened for reduction in intensity of quantitative genetic markers of the slowly multiplying parent. A small number of strongly selected markers formed a linkage group on P. y. yoelii chromosome 13. Of these, that most strongly selected marked the gene encoding the P. yoelii erythrocyte binding ligand (pyebl), which has been independently identified by Otsuki and colleagues [Otsuki H, et al. (2009) Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 106:10.1073/pnas.0811313106] as a major determinant of virulence in these parasites. In an analysis of a previous genetic cross in P. y. yoelii, pyebl alleles of fast- and slowly multiplying parents segregated with the fast and slow multiplication rate phenotype in the cloned recombinant progeny, implying the involvement of the pyebl locus in determining the multiplication rate. Our genome-wide LGS analysis also indicated effects of at least 1 other locus on multiplication rate, as did the findings of Otsuki and colleagues on virulence in P. y. yoelii
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