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1.  Genetically Determined MBL Deficiency Is Associated with Protection against Chronic Cardiomyopathy in Chagas Disease 
PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases  2016;10(1):e0004257.
Chagas disease (CD) is caused by Trypanosoma cruzi, whose sugar moieties are recognized by mannan binding lectin (MBL), a soluble pattern-recognition molecule that activates the lectin pathway of complement. MBL levels and protein activity are affected by polymorphisms in the MBL2 gene. We sequenced the MBL2 promoter and exon 1 in 196 chronic CD patients and 202 controls. The MBL2*C allele, which causes MBL deficiency, was associated with protection against CD (P = 0.007, OR = 0.32). Compared with controls, genotypes with this allele were completely absent in patients with the cardiac form of the disease (P = 0.003). Furthermore, cardiac patients with genotypes causing MBL deficiency presented less heart damage (P = 0.003, OR = 0.23), compared with cardiac patients having the XA haplotype causing low MBL levels, but fully capable of activating complement (P = 0.005, OR = 7.07). Among the patients, those with alleles causing MBL deficiency presented lower levels of cytokines and chemokines possibly implicated in symptom development (IL9, p = 0.013; PDGFB, p = 0.036 and RANTES, p = 0.031). These findings suggest a protective effect of genetically determined MBL deficiency against the development and progression of chronic CD cardiomyopathy.
Author Summary
Chagas disease is considered an important neglected tropical disease, affecting approximately ten million people in Latin America. Although most infected individuals remain asymptomatic, one third of patients develop a chronic heart disease, with progressive inflammation, increase of myocardium, arrhythmia, cardiac insufficiency and heart failure. To date, there is no available marker to indicate the progression neither to determinate the severity of heart damage. Mannan binding lectin (MBL) is an important protein of the immune system able to recognize specific regions on the microorganism surfaces (including Trypanosoma cruzi, the causal agent of Chagas disease) which activate the complement system, a crucial mechanism of the effector immunity. MBL levels and protein activity are affected by genetic differences, named polymorphisms, in the MBL2 gene. This is the first Brazilian study with MBL2 polymorphisms in chronic Chagas disease. We sequenced two regions of MBL2 gene in 196 patients and 202 controls. We found that a polymorphism associated with deficient complement activation protects against Chagas disease and patients with deficiency-associated genotypes presented less echocardiographic alterations. Among the patients, those with alleles causing MBL deficiency presented lower levels of cytokines and chemokines possibly implicated in symptom development (IL9, p = 0.013; PDGFB, p = 0.036 and RANTES, p = 0.031). These findings lead us to suggest that genetically determined MBL deficiency plays a protective role against the development and progression of chronic Chagas disease.
PMCID: PMC4706301  PMID: 26745156
2.  A comparison of molecular markers to detect Lutzomyia longipalpis naturally infected with Leishmania (Leishmania) infantum  
Memórias do Instituto Oswaldo Cruz  2014;109(4):442-447.
The aim of the present study was to detect natural infection by Leishmania (Leishmania) infantum in Lutzomyia longipalpis captured in Barcarena, state of Pará, Brazil, through the use of three primer sets. With this approach, it is unnecessary to previously dissect the sandfly specimens. DNA of 280 Lu. longipalpis female specimens were extracted from the whole insects. PCR primers for kinetoplast minicircle DNA (kDNA), the mini-exon gene and the small subunit ribosomal RNA (SSU-rRNA) gene of Leishmania were used, generating fragments of 400 bp, 780 bp and 603 bp, respectively. Infection by the parasite was found with the kDNA primer in 8.6% of the cases, with the mini-exon gene primer in 7.1% of the cases and with the SSU-rRNA gene primer in 5.3% of the cases. These data show the importance of polymerase chain reaction as a tool for investigating the molecular epidemiology of visceral leishmaniasis by estimating the risk of disease transmission in endemic areas, with the kDNA primer representing the most reliable marker for the parasite.
PMCID: PMC4155845  PMID: 25004147
visceral leishmaniasis; Leishmania (Leishmania) infantum; Lutzomyia longipalpis
3.  Mannose Binding Lectin and Susceptibility to Rheumatoid Arthritis in Brazilian Patients and Their Relatives 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e95519.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a commonly occurring systemic inflammatory auto immune disease and is believed to be associated with genetic factors. The innate immune complement protein Mannose binding lectin (MBL) and their MBL2 genetic variants are associated with different infectious and autoimmune diseases.
In a Brazilian cohort, we aim to associate the functional role of circulating MBL serum levels and MBL2 variants in clinically classified patients (n = 196) with rheumatoid arthritis including their relatives (n = 200) and ethnicity matched healthy controls (n = 200). MBL serum levels were measured by ELISA and functional MBL2 variants were genotyped by direct sequencing.
The exon1+54 MBL2*B variant was significantly associated with an increased risk and the reconstructed haplotype MBL2*LYPB was associated with RA susceptibility. Circulating serum MBL levels were observed significantly lower in RA patients compared to their relatives and controls. No significant contribution of MBL levels were observed with respect to functional class, age at disease onset, disease duration and/or other clinical parameters such as nodules, secondary Sjögren syndrome, anti-CCP and rheumatoid factor. Differential distribution of serum MBL levels with functional MBL2 variants was observed in respective RA patients and their relatives.
Our results suggest MBL levels as a possible marker for RA susceptibility in a Brazilian population.
PMCID: PMC3994105  PMID: 24751721
4.  Association of MASP-2 Levels and MASP2 Gene Polymorphisms with Rheumatoid Arthritis in Patients and Their Relatives 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e90979.
Mannan-binding lectin-associated serine protease 2 (MASP-2) is a key protein of the lectin pathway of complement. MASP-2 levels have been associated with different polymorphisms within MASP2 gene as well as with the risk for inflammatory disorders and infections. Despite its clinical importance, MASP-2 remains poorly investigated in rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
In this case-control study, we measured MASP-2 serum levels in 156 RA patients, 44 patient relatives, and 100 controls from Southern Brazil, associating the results with nine MASP2 polymorphisms in all patients, 111 relatives, and 230 controls genotyped with multiplex SSP-PCR.
MASP-2 levels were lower in patients than in controls and relatives (medians 181 vs. 340 or 285 ng/ml, respectively, P<0.0001). Conversely, high MASP-2 levels were associated with lower susceptibility to RA and to articular symptoms independently of age, gender, ethnicity, smoking habit, anti-CCP and rheumatoid factor positivity (OR = 0.05 [95%CI = 0.019–0.13], P<0.0001 between patients and controls; OR = 0.12, [95%CI = 0.03–0.45], P = 0.002 between patients and relatives; OR = 0.06, [95%CI = 0.004–0.73], P = 0.03 between relatives with and without articular symptoms). MASP2 haplotypes *2A1 and *2B1-i were associated with increased susceptibility to RA (OR = 3.32 [95%CI = 1.48–7.45], P = 0.004). Deficiency-causing p.120G and p.439H substitutions were associated with five times increased susceptibility to articular symptoms in relatives (OR = 5.13 [95%CI = 1.36–20.84], P = 0.02). There was no association of MASP-2 levels or MASP2 polymorphisms with autoantibodies, Sjögren's syndrome, nodules and functional class.
In this study, we found the first evidence that MASP-2 deficiency might play an important role in the development of RA and articular symptoms among relatives of RA patients.
PMCID: PMC3954616  PMID: 24632598
5.  Association of L-Ficolin Levels and FCN2 Genotypes with Chronic Chagas Disease 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e60237.
L-ficolin (encoded by FCN2) binds to acetylated sugar moieties of many pathogens, including Trypanosoma cruzi, promoting their phagocytosis and lysis by the complement system.
We investigated L-ficolin levels in 160 T. cruzi infected patients with chronic Chagas disease and 71 healthy individuals, and FCN2 polymorphisms (−986 G>A, −602 G>A, and −4 A>G in the promoter and A258S in exon 8) in 243 patients, being 88 indeterminate (asymptomatic), 96 with cardiac, 23 with digestive and 33 with cardiodigestive manifestations (two were unspecified) and 305 controls (135 for A258S).
Patients presented lower L-ficolin plasma levels than controls (p<0.0001). Among the different groups of cardiac commitment, individuals with moderate forms had higher L-ficolin levels than the severe forms (P = 0.039). Lower L-ficolin levels were found associated with the 258S variant in the patients (P = 0.034). We found less −4A/G heterozygotes in the cardiac patients, than in the controls (OR = 0.56 [95% CI = 0.33–0.94], P = 0.034). Heterozygote −4A/G genotypes with the 258S variant and 258SS homozygotes were nevertheless more frequent among cardiodigestive patients than in controls (OR = 14.1 [95% CI = 3.5–56.8], P = 0.0001) and in indeterminate patients (OR = 3.2 [95% CI = 1.1–9.4], P = 0.037). We also found an association of the allelic frequency of the 258S variant with cardiodigestive Chagas disease compared to controls (OR = 2.24 [95% CI = 1.1–4.5], P = 0.037). Thus, decreased patient levels of L-ficolin reflect not only protein consumption due to the disease process, but also the higher frequency of the 258S variant in patients with cardiodigestive symptoms.
The very first study on Brazilian cohort associates both L-ficolin plasma levels and FCN2 variants to Chagas disease and subsequent disease progression. The prognostic value of L-ficolin levels and the FCN2*A258S polymorphism should be further evaluated in other settings.
PMCID: PMC3617223  PMID: 23593180
6.  IL-4 Haplotype -590T, -34T and Intron-3 VNTR R2 Is Associated with Reduced Malaria Risk among Ancestral Indian Tribal Populations 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e48136.
Interleukin 4 (IL-4) is an anti-inflammatory cytokine, which regulates balance between TH1 and TH2 immune response, immunoglobulin class switching and humoral immunity. Polymorphisms in this gene have been reported to affect the risk of infectious and autoimmune diseases.
We have analyzed three regulatory IL-4 polymorphisms; -590C>T, -34C>T and 70 bp intron-3 VNTR, in 4216 individuals; including: (1) 430 ethnically matched case-control groups (173 severe malaria, 101 mild malaria and 156 asymptomatic); (2) 3452 individuals from 76 linguistically and geographically distinct endogamous populations of India, and (3) 334 individuals with different ancestry from outside India (84 Brazilian, 104 Syrian, and 146 Vietnamese).
The -590T, -34T and intron-3 VNTR R2 alleles were found to be associated with reduced malaria risk (P<0.001 for -590C>T and -34C>T, and P = 0.003 for VNTR). These three alleles were in strong LD (r2>0.75) and the TTR2 (-590T, -34T and intron-3 VNTR R2) haplotype appeared to be a susceptibility factor for malaria (P = 0.009, OR = 0.552, 95% CI = 0.356 –0.854). Allele and genotype frequencies differ significantly between caste, nomadic, tribe and ancestral tribal populations (ATP). The distribution of protective haplotype TTR2 was found to be significant (χ23 = 182.95, p-value <0.001), which is highest in ATP (40.5%); intermediate in tribes (33%); and lowest in caste (17.8%) and nomadic (21.6%).
Our study suggests that the IL-4 polymorphisms regulate host susceptibility to malaria and disease progression. TTR2 haplotype, which gives protection against malaria, is high among ATPs. Since they inhabited in isolation and mainly practice hunter-gatherer lifestyles and exposed to various parasites, IL-4 TTR2 haplotype might be under positive selection.
PMCID: PMC3480467  PMID: 23110190
7.  Phylogenetic nomenclature and evolution of mannose-binding lectin (MBL2) haplotypes 
BMC Genetics  2010;11:38.
Polymorphisms of the mannose-binding lectin gene (MBL2) affect the concentration and functional efficiency of the protein. We recently used haplotype-specific sequencing to identify 23 MBL2 haplotypes, associated with enhanced susceptibility to several diseases.
In this work, we applied the same method in 288 and 470 chromosomes from Gabonese and European adults, respectively, and found three new haplotypes in the last group. We propose a phylogenetic nomenclature to standardize MBL2 studies and found two major phylogenetic branches due to six strongly linked polymorphisms associated with high MBL production. They presented high Fst values and were imbedded in regions with high nucleotide diversity and significant Tajima's D values. Compared to others using small sample sizes and unphased genotypic data, we found differences in haplotyping, frequency estimation, Fu and Li's D* and Fst results.
Using extensive testing for selective neutrality, we confirmed that stochastic evolutionary factors have had a major role in shaping this polymorphic gene worldwide.
PMCID: PMC2885306  PMID: 20465856
8.  Haplotype specific-sequencing reveals MBL2 association with asymptomatic Plasmodium falciparum infection 
Malaria Journal  2009;8:97.
Mannose binding lectin (MBL) has an important role in the activation of the complement system and opsonization of pathogenic microorganisms. Frequent polymorphisms found in the MBL2 gene affect the concentration and functionality of the protein and are associated with enhanced susceptibility to severe malaria in African children. Most MBL2 typing strategies were designed to the analysis of selected variants, the significance of whole haplotypes is poorly known. In this work, a new typing strategy was developed and validated in an association analysis of MBL2 with adult asymptomatic infection.
MBL2 allele-specific fragments of 144 healthy Gabonese adults were amplified by using haplotype-specific sequencing (HSS), a new strategy that combines sequence-specific PCR and sequence-based typing. The Gabonese were investigated for the presence of Plasmodium falciparum parasitaemia by the amplification of parasite genes, immunochromatographic antigen detection and microscopic analysis. HSS results were also compared with a previously used real-time PCR (RT-PCR) method in 72 Euro-Brazilians.
Fourteen polymorphisms were identified beside the commonly investigated promoter (H, L; X, Y; P, Q) and exon 1 (A, O; O = B, C or D) variants. The MBL2*LYPA/LYPA genotype was associated with the absence of asymptomatic infection (P = 0.017), whereas the MBL2*LYQC haplotype and YA/YO + YO/YO genotypes were associated with positive parasite counts in asymptomatic adults (P = 0.033 and 0.018, respectively). The associations were specific to LYPA (identical to the reference sequence Y16577) and LYQC (Y16578) and would not have been revealed by standard genotyping, as there was no association with LYPA and LYQC haplotypes carrying new polymorphisms defined by sequence-based typing. In contrast, HSS and RT-PCR produced very similar results in the less diverse European-derived population.
In this work, a new typing strategy for a highly polymorphic gene was developed and validated focusing on the asymptomatic status of P. falciparum-infected adults. In populations with high nucleotide diversity, it allowed for the identification of associations with fine-scaled haplotypes that would not have been found using common typing techniques. In this preliminary study, MBL2 haplotypes or SNPs linked to them were found associated with susceptibility to infection and parasitaemia control of asymptomatic adults.
PMCID: PMC2689254  PMID: 19432958

Results 1-8 (8)