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1.  Insights into the possible role of IFNG and IFNGR1 in Kala-azar and Post Kala-azar Dermal Leishmaniasis in Sudanese patients 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2014;14(1):662.
Little is known about the parasite/host factors that lead to Post Kala-azar Dermal Leishmaniasis (PKDL) in some visceral leishmaniasis (VL) patients after drug-cure. Studies in Sudan provide evidence for association between polymorphisms in the gene (IFNGR1) encoding the alpha chain of interferon-γ receptor type I and risk of PKDL. This study aimed to identify putative functional polymorphisms in the IFNGR1 gene, and to determine whether differences in expression of interferon-γ (IFNG) and IFNGR1 at the RNA level are associated with pathogenesis of VL and/or PKDL in Sudan.
Sanger sequencing was used to re-sequence 841 bp of upstream, exon1 and intron1 of the IFNGR1 gene in DNA from 30 PKDL patients. LAGAN and SYNPLOT bioinformatics tools were used to compare human, chimpanzee and dog sequences to identify conserved noncoding sequences carrying putative regulatory elements. The relative expression of IFNG and IFNGR1 in paired pre- and post-treatment RNA samples from the lymph nodes of 24 VL patients, and in RNA samples from skin biopsies of 19 PKDL patients, was measured using real time PCR. Pre- versus post-treatment expression was evaluated statistically using the nonparametric Wilcoxon matched pairs signed-rank test.
Ten variants were identified in the 841 bp of sequence, four of which are novel polymorphisms at -77A/G, +10 C/T, +18C/T and +91G/T relative to the IFNGR1 initiation site. A cluster of conserved non-coding sequences with putative regulatory variants was identified in the distal promoter of IFNGR1. Variable expression of IFNG was detected in lymph node aspirates of VL patients before treatment, with a marked reduction (P = 0.006) in expression following treatment. IFNGR1 expression was also variable in lymph node aspirates from VL patients, with no significant reduction in expression with treatment. IFNG expression was undetectable in the skin biopsies of PKDL cases, while IFNGR1 expression was also uniformly low.
Uniformly low expression of IFN and IFNGR1 in PKDL skin biopsies could explain parasite persistence and is consistent with prior demonstration of genetic association with IFNGR1 polymorphisms. Identification of novel potentially functional rare variants at IFNGR1 makes an important general contribution to knowledge of rare variants of potential relevance in this Sudanese population.
PMCID: PMC4265480  PMID: 25466928
PKDL; Visceral leishmaniasis; Polymorphisms; RNA expression; IFNG; IFNGR1; Rare variants; Sudan
2.  Comparison of Methods to Account for Relatedness in Genome-Wide Association Studies with Family-Based Data 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(7):e1004445.
Approaches based on linear mixed models (LMMs) have recently gained popularity for modelling population substructure and relatedness in genome-wide association studies. In the last few years, a bewildering variety of different LMM methods/software packages have been developed, but it is not always clear how (or indeed whether) any newly-proposed method differs from previously-proposed implementations. Here we compare the performance of several LMM approaches (and software implementations, including EMMAX, GenABEL, FaST-LMM, Mendel, GEMMA and MMM) via their application to a genome-wide association study of visceral leishmaniasis in 348 Brazilian families comprising 3626 individuals (1972 genotyped). The implementations differ in precise details of methodology implemented and through various user-chosen options such as the method and number of SNPs used to estimate the kinship (relatedness) matrix. We investigate sensitivity to these choices and the success (or otherwise) of the approaches in controlling the overall genome-wide error-rate for both real and simulated phenotypes. We compare the LMM results to those obtained using traditional family-based association tests (based on transmission of alleles within pedigrees) and to alternative approaches implemented in the software packages MQLS, ROADTRIPS and MASTOR. We find strong concordance between the results from different LMM approaches, and all are successful in controlling the genome-wide error rate (except for some approaches when applied naively to longitudinal data with many repeated measures). We also find high correlation between LMMs and alternative approaches (apart from transmission-based approaches when applied to SNPs with small or non-existent effects). We conclude that LMM approaches perform well in comparison to competing approaches. Given their strong concordance, in most applications, the choice of precise LMM implementation cannot be based on power/type I error considerations but must instead be based on considerations such as speed and ease-of-use.
Author Summary
Recently, statistical approaches known as linear mixed models (LMMs) have become popular for analysing data from genome-wide association studies. In the last few years, a bewildering variety of different LMM methods/software packages have been developed, but it has not always been clear how (or indeed whether) any newly-proposed method differs from previously-proposed implementations. Here we compare the performance of several different LMM approaches (and software implementations) via their application to a genome-wide association study of visceral leishmaniasis in 348 Brazilian families comprising 3626 individuals. We also compare the LMM results to those obtained using alternative analysis methods. Overall, we find strong concordance between the results from the different LMM approaches and high correlation between the results from LMMs and most alternative approaches. We conclude that LMM approaches perform well in comparison to competing approaches and, in most applications, the precise LMM implementation will not be too important, and can be chosen on the basis of speed or convenience.
PMCID: PMC4102448  PMID: 25033443
3.  Host genetic factors in American cutaneous leishmaniasis: a critical appraisal of studies conducted in an endemic area of Brazil 
Memórias do Instituto Oswaldo Cruz  2014;109(3):279-288.
American cutaneous leishmaniasis (ACL) is a vector-transmitted infectious disease with an estimated 1.5 million new cases per year. In Brazil, ACL represents a significant public health problem, with approximately 30,000 new reported cases annually, representing an incidence of 18.5 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. Corte de Pedra is in a region endemic for ACL in the state of Bahia (BA), northeastern Brazil, with 500-1,300 patients treated annually. Over the last decade, population and family-based candidate gene studies were conducted in Corte de Pedra, founded on previous knowledge from studies on mice and humans. Notwithstanding limitations related to sample size and power, these studies contribute important genetic biomarkers that identify novel pathways of disease pathogenesis and possible new therapeutic targets. The present paper is a narrative review about ACL immunogenetics in BA, highlighting in particular the interacting roles of the wound healing gene FLI1 with interleukin-6 and genes SMAD2 and SMAD3 of the transforming growth factor beta signalling pathway. This research highlights the need for well-powered genetic and functional studies on Leishmania braziliensis infection as essential to define and validate the role of host genes in determining resistance/susceptibility regarding this disease.
PMCID: PMC4131779  PMID: 24863979
genetic biomarkers; American cutaneous leishmaniasis; wound healing genes
4.  Association of a NOD2 Gene Polymorphism and T-Helper 17 Cells With Presumed Ocular Toxoplasmosis 
The Journal of Infectious Diseases  2012;207(1):152-163.
Retinochoroiditis manifests in patients infected with Toxoplasma gondii. Here, we assessed 30 sibships and 89 parent/case trios of presumed ocular toxoplasmosis (POT) to evaluate associations with polymorphisms in the NOD2 gene. Three haplotype-tagging single-nucleotide polymorphisms (tag-SNPs) within the NOD2 gene were genotyped. The family-based association test showed that the tag-SNP rs3135499 is associated with retinochoroiditis (P = .039). We then characterized the cellular immune response of 59 cases of POT and 4 cases of active ocular toxoplasmosis (AOT). We found no differences in levels of interferon γ (IFN-γ) and interleukin 2 produced by T-helper 1 cells when comparing patients with AOT or POT to asymptomatic individuals. Unexpectedly, we found an increased interleukin 17A (IL-17A) production in patients with POT or OAT. In patients with POT or AOT, the main cellular source of IL-17A was CD4+CD45RO+T-bet−IFN-γ− T-helper 17 cells. Altogether, our results suggest that NOD2 influences the production of IL-17A by CD4+ T lymphocytes and might contribute to the development of ocular toxoplasmosis.
PMCID: PMC3523795  PMID: 23100559
NOD2; IL-17; Th17; T lymphocytes; ocular toxoplasmosis; Toxoplasma gondii
5.  Genetic and functional evaluation of the role of DLL1 in susceptibility to visceral leishmaniasis in India 
Chromosome 6q26–27 is linked to susceptibility to visceral leishmaniasis (VL) in Brazil and Sudan. DLL1 encoding the Delta-like 1 ligand for Notch 3 was implicated as the etiological gene. DLL1 belongs to the family of Notch ligands known to selectively drive antigen-specific CD4 T helper 1 cell responses, which are important in protective immune response in leishmaniasis. Here we provide further genetic and functional evidence that supports a role for DLL1 in a well-powered population-based study centred in the largest global focus of VL in India. Twenty-one single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) at PHF10/C6orf70/DLL1/FAM120B/PSMB1/TBP were genotyped in 941 cases and 992 controls. Logistic regression analysis under an additive model showed association between VL and variants at DLL1 and FAM120B, with top associations (rs9460106, OR=1.17, 95%CI 1.01–1.35, P=0.033; rs2103816, OR=1.16, 95%CI 1.01–1.34, P=0.039) robust to analysis using caste as a covariate to take account of population substructure. Haplotype analysis taking population substructure into account identified a common 2-SNP risk haplotype (frequency 0.43; P=0.028) at FAM120B, while the most significant protective haplotype (frequency 0.18; P=0.007) was a 5-SNP haplotype across the interval 5’ of both DLL1 (negative strand) and FAM120B (positive strand) and extending to intron 4 of DLL1. Quantitative RT/PCR was used to compare expression of 6q27 genes in paired pre- and post-treatment splenic aspirates from VL patients (N=19). DLL1 was the only gene to show differential expression that was higher (P<0.0001) in pre- compared to post-treatment samples, suggesting that regulation of gene expression was important in disease pathogenesis. This well-powered genetic and functional study in an Indian population provides evidence supporting DLL1 as the etiological gene contributing to susceptibility to VL at Chromosome 6q27, confirming the potential for polymorphism at DLL1 to act as a genetic risk factor across the epidemiological divides of geography and parasite species.
PMCID: PMC3651914  PMID: 22561395
visceral leishmaniasis; DLL1; genetic association; Notch signalling
6.  Common variants in the HLA-DRB1-HLA-DQA1 Class II region are associated with susceptibility to visceral leishmaniasis 
Nature genetics  2013;45(2):208-213.
To identify susceptibility loci for visceral leishmaniasis we undertook genome-wide association studies in two populations; 989 cases and 1089 controls from India, and 357 cases in 308 Brazilian families (1970 individuals). The HLA-DRB1-HLA-DQA1 locus was the only region to show strong evidence of association in both populations. Replication at this region was undertaken in a second Indian population comprising 941 cases and 990 controls, resulting in Pcombined=2.76×10−17 and OR(95%CI)=1.41(1.30-1.52) across the three cohorts at rs9271858. A conditional analysis provided evidence for multiple associations within the HLA-DRB1-HLA-DQA1 region, and a model in which risk differed between three groups of haplotypes better explained the signal and was significant in the Indian discovery and replication cohorts. In conclusion the HLA-DRB1-HLA-DQA1 HLA class II region contributes to visceral leishmaniasis susceptibility in India and Brazil, suggesting shared genetic risk factors for visceral leishmaniasis that cross the epidemiological divides of geography and parasite species.
PMCID: PMC3664012  PMID: 23291585
7.  Wound healing genes and susceptibility to cutaneous leishmaniasis in Brazil 
Infection, Genetics and Evolution  2012;12(5):1102-1110.
Leishmania braziliensis causes cutaneous (CL) and mucosal (ML) leishmaniasis. In the mouse, Fli1 was identified as a gene influencing enhanced wound healing and resistance to CL caused by L. major. Polymorphism at FLI1 is associated with CL caused by L. braziliensis in humans, with an inverse association observed for ML disease. Here we extend the analysis to look at other wound healing genes, including CTGF, TGFB1, TGFBR1/2, SMADS 2/3/4/7 and FLII, all functionally linked along with FLI1 in the TGF beta pathway. Haplotype tagging single nucleotide polymorphisms (tag-SNPs) were genotyped using Taqman technology in 325 nuclear families (652 CL cases; 126 ML cases) from Brazil. Robust case-pseudocontrol (CPC) conditional logistic regression analysis showed associations between CL and SNPs at CTGF (SNP rs6918698; CC genotype; OR 1.67; 95%CI 1.10–2.54; P=0.016), TGFBR2 (rs1962859; OR 1.50; 95%CI 1.12–1.99; P=0.005), SMAD2 (rs1792658; OR 1.57; 95%CI 1.04–2.38; P=0.03), SMAD7 (rs4464148; AA genotype; OR 2.80; 95%CI 1.00–7.87; P=0.05) and FLII (rs2071242; OR 1.60; 95%CI 1.14–2.24; P=0.005), and between ML and SNPs at SMAD3 (rs1465841; OR 2.15; 95%CI 1.13–4.07; P=0.018) and SMAD7 (rs2337107; TT genotype; OR 3.70; 95%CI 1.27–10.7; P=0.016). Stepwise logistic regression analysis showed that all SNPs associated with CL at FLI1, CTGF, TGFBR2, and FLII showed independent effects from each other, but SNPs at SMAD2 and SMAD7 did not add independent effects to SNPs from other genes. These results suggest that TGFβ signalling via SMAD2 is important in directing events that contribute to CL, whereas signalling via SMAD3 is important in ML. Both are modulated by the inhibitory SMAD7 that acts upstream of SMAD2 and SMAD3 in this signalling pathway. Along with the published FLI1 association, these data further contribute to the hypothesis that wound healing processes are important determinants of pathology associated with cutaneous forms of leishmaniasis.
PMCID: PMC3372530  PMID: 22554650
leishmaniasis; wound healing; TGFB pathway; CTGF; SMADs; FLII; FLI1
8.  Genetic and Functional Evidence Implicating DLL1 as the Gene That Influences Susceptibility to Visceral Leishmaniasis at Chromosome 6q27 
The Journal of Infectious Diseases  2011;204(3):467-477.
Background. Visceral leishmaniasis (VL) is caused by Leishmania donovani and Leishmania infantum chagasi. Genome-wide linkage studies from Sudan and Brazil identified a putative susceptibility locus on chromosome 6q27.
Methods. Twenty-two single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) at genes PHF10, C6orf70, DLL1, FAM120B, PSMB1, and TBP were genotyped in 193 VL cases from 85 Sudanese families, and 8 SNPs at genes PHF10, C6orf70, DLL1, PSMB1, and TBP were genotyped in 194 VL cases from 80 Brazilian families. Family-based association, haplotype, and linkage disequilibrium analyses were performed. Multispecies comparative sequence analysis was used to identify conserved noncoding sequences carrying putative regulatory elements. Quantitative reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction measured expression of candidate genes in splenic aspirates from Indian patients with VL compared with that in the control spleen sample.
Results. Positive associations were observed at PHF10, C6orf70, DLL1, PSMB1, and TBP in Sudan, but only at DLL1 in Brazil (combined P = 3 × 10−4 at DLL1 across Sudan and Brazil). No functional coding region variants were observed in resequencing of 22 Sudanese VL cases. DLL1 expression was significantly (P = 2 × 10−7) reduced (mean fold change, 3.5 [SEM, 0.7]) in splenic aspirates from patients with VL, whereas other 6q27 genes showed higher levels (1.27 × 10−6 < P < .01) than did the control spleen sample. A cluster of conserved noncoding sequences with putative regulatory variants was identified in the distal promoter of DLL1.
Conclusions. DLL1, which encodes Delta-like 1, the ligand for Notch3, is strongly implicated as the chromosome 6q27 VL susceptibility gene.
PMCID: PMC3132144  PMID: 21742847
9.  Genetic and functional evaluation of the role of CXCR1 and CXCR2 in susceptibility to visceral leishmaniasis in north-east India 
BMC Medical Genetics  2011;12:162.
IL8RA and IL8RB, encoded by CXCR1 and CXCR2, are receptors for interleukin (IL)-8 and other CXC chemokines involved in chemotaxis and activation of polymorphonuclear neutrophils (PMN). Variants at CXCR1 and CXCR2 have been associated with susceptibility to cutaneous and mucocutaneous leishmaniasis in Brazil. Here we investigate the role of CXCR1/CXCR2 in visceral leishmaniasis (VL) in India.
Three single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) (rs4674259, rs2234671, rs3138060) that tag linkage disequilibrium blocks across CXCR1/CXCR2 were genotyped in primary family-based (313 cases; 176 nuclear families; 836 individuals) and replication (941 cases; 992 controls) samples. Family- and population-based analyses were performed to look for association between CXCR1/CXCR2 variants and VL. Quantitative RT/PCR was used to compare CXCR1/CXCR2 expression in mRNA from paired splenic aspirates taken before and after treatment from 19 VL patients.
Family-based analysis using FBAT showed association between VL and SNPs CXCR1_rs2234671 (Z-score = 2.935, P = 0.003) and CXCR1_rs3138060 (Z-score = 2.22, P = 0.026), but not with CXCR2_rs4674259. Logistic regression analysis of the case-control data under an additive model of inheritance showed association between VL and SNPs CXCR2_rs4674259 (OR = 1.15, 95%CI = 1.01-1.31, P = 0.027) and CXCR1_rs3138060 (OR = 1.25, 95%CI = 1.02-1.53, P = 0.028), but not with CXCR1_rs2234671. The 3-locus haplotype T_G_C across these SNPs was shown to be the risk haplotype in both family- (TRANSMIT; P = 0.014) and population- (OR = 1.16, P = 0.028) samples (combined P = 0.002). CXCR2, but not CXCR1, expression was down regulated in pre-treatment compared to post-treatment splenic aspirates (P = 0.021).
This well-powered primary and replication genetic study, together with functional analysis of gene expression, implicate CXCR2 in determining outcome of VL in India.
PMCID: PMC3260103  PMID: 22171941
10.  No evidence for association between SLC11A1 and visceral leishmaniasis in India 
BMC Medical Genetics  2011;12:71.
SLC11A1 has pleiotropic effects on macrophage function and remains a strong candidate for infectious disease susceptibility. 5' and/or 3' polymorphisms have been associated with tuberculosis, leprosy, and visceral leishmaniasis (VL). Most studies undertaken to date were under-powered, and none has been replicated within a population. Association with tuberculosis has replicated variably across populations. Here we investigate SLC11A1 and VL in India.
Nine polymorphisms (rs34448891, rs7573065, rs2276631, rs3731865, rs17221959, rs2279015, rs17235409, rs17235416, rs17229009) that tag linkage disequilibrium blocks across SLC11A1 were genotyped in primary family-based (313 cases; 176 families) and replication (941 cases; 992 controls) samples. Family- and population-based analyses were performed to look for association between SLC11A1 variants and VL. Quantitative RT/PCR was used to compare SLC11A1 expression in mRNA from paired splenic aspirates taken before and after treatment from 24 VL patients carrying different genotypes at the functional promoter GTn polymorphism (rs34448891).
No associations were observed between VL and polymorphisms at SLC11A1 that were either robust to correction for multiple testing or replicated across primary and replication samples. No differences in expression of SLC11A1 were observed when comparing pre- and post-treatment samples, or between individuals carrying different genotypes at the GTn repeat.
This is the first well-powered study of SLC11A1 as a candidate for VL, which we conclude does not have a major role in regulating VL susceptibility in India.
PMCID: PMC3128845  PMID: 21599885
SLC11A1; visceral leishmaniasis; genetic susceptibility
11.  Classification and Regression Tree and Spatial Analyses Reveal Geographic Heterogeneity in Genome Wide Linkage Study of Indian Visceral Leishmaniasis 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(12):e15807.
Genome wide linkage studies (GWLS) have provided evidence for loci controlling visceral leishmaniasis on Chromosomes 1p22, 6q27, 22q12 in Sudan and 6q27, 9p21, 17q11-q21 in Brazil. Genome wide studies from the major focus of disease in India have not previously been reported.
Methods and Findings
We undertook a GWLS in India in which a primary ∼10 cM (515 microsatellites) scan was carried out in 58 multicase pedigrees (74 nuclear families; 176 affected, 353 total individuals) and replication sought in 79 pedigrees (102 nuclear families; 218 affected, 473 total individuals). The primary scan provided evidence (≥2 adjacent markers allele-sharing LOD≥0.59; nominal P≤0.05) for linkage on Chromosomes 2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 20 and X, with peaks at 6p25.3-p24.3 and 8p23.1-p21.3 contributed to largely by 31 Hindu families and at Xq21.1-q26.1 by 27 Muslim families. Refined mapping confirmed linkage across all primary scan families at 2q12.2-q14.1 and 11q13.2-q23.3, but only 11q13.2-q23.3 replicated (combined LOD = 1.59; P = 0.0034). Linkage at 6p25.3-p24.3 and 8p23.1-p21.3, and at Xq21.1-q26.1, was confirmed by refined mapping for primary Hindu and Muslim families, respectively, but only Xq21.1-q26.1 replicated across all Muslim families (combined LOD 1.49; P = 0.0045). STRUCTURE and SMARTPCA did not identify population genetic substructure related to religious group. Classification and regression tree, and spatial interpolation, analyses confirm geographical heterogeneity for linkages at 6p25.3-p24.3, 8p23.1-p21.3 and Xq21.1-q26.1, with specific clusters of families contributing LOD scores of 2.13 (P = 0.0009), 1.75 (P = 0.002) and 1.84 (P = 0.001), respectively.
GWLS has identified novel loci that show geographical heterogeneity in their influence on susceptibility to VL in India.
PMCID: PMC3013125  PMID: 21209823
12.  Y Chromosome Lineage- and Village-Specific Genes on Chromosomes 1p22 and 6q27 Control Visceral Leishmaniasis in Sudan 
PLoS Genetics  2007;3(5):e71.
Familial clustering and ethnic differences suggest that visceral leishmaniasis caused by Leishmania donovani is under genetic control. A recent genome scan provided evidence for a major susceptibility gene on Chromosome 22q12 in the Aringa ethnic group in Sudan. We now report a genome-wide scan using 69 families with 173 affected relatives from two villages occupied by the related Masalit ethnic group. A primary ten-centimorgan scan followed by refined mapping provided evidence for major loci at 1p22 (LOD score 5.65; nominal p = 1.72 × 10−7; empirical p < 1 × 10−5; λS = 5.1) and 6q27 (LOD score 3.74; nominal p = 1.68 × 10−5; empirical p < 1 × 10−4; λS = 2.3) that were Y chromosome–lineage and village-specific. Neither village supported a visceral leishmaniasis susceptibility gene on 22q12. The results suggest strong lineage-specific genes due to founder effect and consanguinity in these recently immigrant populations. These chance events in ethnically uniform African populations provide a powerful resource in the search for genes and mechanisms that regulate this complex disease.
Author Summary
The parasitic disease kala-azar, or visceral leishmaniasis, is associated with liver, spleen, and lymph gland enlargement, as well as fever, weight loss, and anaemia. It is fatal unless treated. Three major foci of disease occur in India, Sudan, and Brazil. Importantly, 80%–90% of infections are asymptomatic. Understanding why two people with the same exposure to infection differ in susceptibility could provide important leads for improved therapies. We studied families with multiple cases of clinical disease from two villages in Sudan. After typing 300–400 genetic markers across the human genome, we determined which chromosomes carry susceptibility genes. We were surprised that our results differed from those published earlier for a village 100 kilometers from our site. All of these villages are occupied by people of the same ethnic group who migrated from western Sudan late last century following a major drought. We stratified our analysis by village, and used male Y chromosome markers to tag extended pedigrees. Our results suggest that recent immigration, in combination with consanguineal marriage in a strongly patriarchal society, has amplified founder effects resulting in different lineages within each village carrying different susceptibility loci. This demonstrates the importance of understanding population genetic substructure in studying genes that regulate complex disease.
PMCID: PMC1866354  PMID: 17500593

Results 1-12 (12)