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1.  HIV Treatments Reduce Malaria Liver Stage Burden in a Non-Human Primate Model of Malaria Infection at Clinically Relevant Concentrations In Vivo 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(7):e100138.
We have previously shown that the HIV protease inhibitor lopinavir-ritonavir (LPV-RTV) and the antibiotic trimethoprim sulfamethoxazole (TMP-SMX) inhibit Plasmodium liver stages in rodent malarias and in vitro in P. falciparum. Since clinically relevant levels are better achieved in the non-human-primate model, and since Plasmodium knowlesi is an accepted animal model for the study of liver stages of malaria as a surrogate for P. falciparum infection, we investigated the antimalarial activity of these drugs on Plasmodium knowlesi liver stages in rhesus macaques. We demonstrate that TMP-SMX and TMP-SMX+LPV-RTV (in combination), but not LPV-RTV alone, inhibit liver stage parasite development. Because drugs that inhibit the clinically silent liver stages target parasites when they are present in lower numbers, these results may have implications for eradication efforts.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0100138
PMCID: PMC4079689  PMID: 24988386
2.  HIV Treatments Have Malaria Gametocyte Killing and Transmission Blocking Activity 
The Journal of Infectious Diseases  2013;208(1):139-148.
Background. Millions of individuals being treated for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) live in malaria-endemic areas, but the effects of these treatments on malaria transmission are unknown. While drugs like HIV protease inhibitors (PIs) and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (TMP-SMX) have known activity against parasites during liver or asexual blood stages, their effects on transmission stages require further study.
Methods. The HIV PIs lopinavir and saquinavir, the nonnucleoside reverse-transcriptase inhibitor nevirapine, and the antibiotic TMP-SMX were assessed for activity against Plasmodium falciparum transmission stages. The alamarBlue assay was used to determine the effects of drugs on gametocyte viability, and exflagellation was assessed to determine the effects of drugs on gametocyte maturation. The effects of drug on transmission were assessed by calculating the mosquito oocyst count as a marker for infectivity, using standard membrane feeding assays.
Results. Lopinavir and saquinavir have gametocytocidal and transmission blocking activities at or approaching clinically relevant treatment levels, while nevirapine does not. TMP-SMX is not gametocytocidal, but at prophylactic levels it blocks transmission.
Conclusions. Specific HIV treatments have gametocyte killing and transmission-blocking effects. Clinical studies are warranted to evaluate these findings and their potential impact on eradication efforts.
doi:10.1093/infdis/jit132
PMCID: PMC3666138  PMID: 23539746
HIV; malaria; antiretrovirals; TMP-SMX; gametocytes; transmission
3.  Maternal Dietary Patterns are Associated With Risk of Neural Tube and Congenital Heart Defects 
American Journal of Epidemiology  2013;177(11):1279-1288.
Studying empirically derived dietary patterns is useful in understanding dietary practice. We classified women by their dietary patterns using latent class analysis of 66 foods and studied the association of these patterns with neural tube defects (NTDs) and congenital heart defects (CHDs) in the US National Birth Defects Prevention Study (1997–2005). Logistic regression models used data from 1,047 with an NTD, 6,641 with a CHD, and 6,123 controls that were adjusted for maternal characteristics and tested the effect modification of multivitamin supplement use. Four latent dietary patterns were identified: prudent, Western, low-calorie Western, and Mexican. Among participants who did not use supplements, those in the Mexican, Western, and low-calorie Western classes were significantly more likely (odds ratios of 1.6, 1.5, and 1.4, respectively) to have offspring born with NTDs than were those in the prudent class after adjustment of for dietary folic acid intake. In contrast, among supplement users, there was no difference in the incidence of NTDs between classes. Associations between dietary class and CHD subgroups were not modified by supplement use except for tetralogy of Fallot; among supplement users, those in the Western class were twice as likely (95% confidence interval: 1.4, 2.8) as the prudent class to have offspring with tetralogy of Fallot. Women who adhered to a Western diet were 1.2 (95% confidence interval: 1.03, 1.35) times more likely to have an infant with septal heart defect than were women who adhered to a prudent diet. A prudent dietary pattern, even with folate fortification, may decrease the risk of NTDs and some heart defects.
doi:10.1093/aje/kws349
PMCID: PMC3664332  PMID: 23639938
congenital anomalies; diet; eating patterns; folic acid; latent class analysis
4.  Preconception folic acid supplementation and risk for chromosome 21 nondisjunction: A report from the National Down Syndrome Project 
Both a lack of maternal folic acid supplementation and the presence of genetic variants that reduce enzyme activity in folate pathway genes have been linked to meiotic nondisjunction of chromosome 21; however, the findings in this area of research have been inconsistent. To better understand these inconsistencies, we asked whether maternal use of a folic acid-containing supplement before conception reduces risk for chromosome 21 nondisjunction. Using questionnaire data from the National Down Syndrome Project, a population-based case-control study, we compared the use of folic acid-containing supplements among mothers of infants with full trisomy 21 due to maternal nondisjunction (n=702) and mothers of infants born with no major birth defects (n=983). Using logistic regression, adjusting for maternal age, race/ethnicity, and infant age at maternal interview, we found no evidence of an association between lack of folic acid supplementation and maternal nondisjunction among all case mothers (OR=1.16; 95% CI: 0.90–1.48). In analyses stratified by meiotic stage and maternal age (<35 years or ≥ 35 years), we found an association among older mothers experiencing meiosis II nondisjunction errors (OR=2.00; 95% CI: 1.08–3.71). These data suggest that lack of folic acid supplementation may be associated specifically with MII errors in the aging oocyte. If confirmed, these results could account for inconsistencies among previous studies, as each study sample may vary by maternal age structure and proportion of meiotic errors.
doi:10.1002/ajmg.a.35796
PMCID: PMC3607196  PMID: 23401135
Down syndrome; Trisomy 21; Aneuploidy; Nondisjunction; Chromosome segregation; Folic acid; Meiosis
5.  The Plasmodium TRAP/MIC2 family member, TRAP-Like Protein (TLP), is involved in tissue traversal by sporozoites 
Cellular microbiology  2008;10(7):1505-1516.
Summary
In the apicomplexan protozoans motility and cell invasion are mediated by the TRAP/MIC2 family of transmembrane proteins, members of which link extracellular adhesion to the intracellular actomyosin motor complex. Here we characterize a new member of the TRAP/MIC2 family, named TRAP-Like Protein (TLP), that is highly conserved within the Plasmodium genus. Similar to the Plasmodium sporozoite protein, TRAP, and the ookinete protein, CTRP, TLP possesses an extracellular domain architecture that is comprised of von Willebrand factor A (vWA) and thrombospondin type 1 (TSP1) domains, plus a short cytoplasmic domain. Comparison of the vWA domain of TLP genes from multiple Plasmodium falciparum isolates showed relative low sequence diversity, suggesting that the protein is not under selective pressures of the host immune system. Analysis of transcript levels by quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) showed that TLP is predominantly expressed in salivary gland sporozoites of P. falciparum and P. berghei. Targeted disruption of P. berghei TLP resulted in a decreased capacity for cell traversal by sporozoites, and reduced infectivity of sporozoites in vivo, whereas in vitro sporozoite motility and hepatocyte invasion were unaffected. These results indicate a role of TLP in cell traversal by sporozoites.
doi:10.1111/j.1462-5822.2008.01143.x
PMCID: PMC3937816  PMID: 18346224
6.  HIV Nonnucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors and Trimethoprim-Sulfamethoxazole Inhibit Plasmodium Liver Stages 
The Journal of Infectious Diseases  2012;206(11):1706-1714.
Background. Although nonnucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs) are usually part of first-line treatment regimens for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), their activity on Plasmodium liver stages remains unexplored. Additionally, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (TMP-SMX), used for opportunistic infection prophylaxis in HIV-exposed infants and HIV-infected patients, reduces clinical episodes of malaria; however, TMP-SMX effect on Plasmodium liver stages requires further study.
Methods. We characterized NNRTI and TMP-SMX effects on Plasmodium liver stages in vivo using Plasmodium yoelii. On the basis of these results, we conducted in vitro studies assessing TMP-SMX effects on the rodent parasites P. yoelii and Plasmodium berghei and on the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum.
Results. Our data showed NNRTI treatment modestly reduced P. yoelii liver stage parasite burden and minimally extended prepatent period. TMP-SMX administration significantly reduced liver stage parasite burden, preventing development of patent parasitemia in vivo. TMP-SMX inhibited development of rodent and P. falciparum liver stage parasites in vitro.
Conclusions. NNRTIs modestly affect liver stage Plasmodium parasites, whereas TMP-SMX prevents patent parasitemia. Because drugs that inhibit liver stages target parasites when they are present in lower numbers, these results may have implications for eradication efforts. Understanding HIV drug effects on Plasmodium liver stages will aid in optimizing treatment regimens for HIV-exposed and HIV-infected infected patients in malaria-endemic areas.
doi:10.1093/infdis/jis602
PMCID: PMC3488198  PMID: 23125449
7.  Neural Tube Defects and Maternal Intake of Micronutrients Related to One-Carbon Metabolism or Antioxidant Activity 
Background
Maternal nutritional status has been evaluated to clarify its role in development of neural tube defects (NTDs). Maternal folate intake during pregnancy has been closely evaluated for its association with NTDs.
Objective
The study objective was to examine associations between NTDs and other dietary periconceptional micronutrient intake, particularly nutrients involved in one-carbon metabolism or antioxidant activity.
Design
Using data from the National Birth Defects Prevention Study, 1997–2005, logistic regression models were used to estimate the relative risk of NTDs based on maternal micronutrient intake.
Results
Results were stratified according to folic acid supplement use, race/ethnicity, and maternal body mass index. Analyses included 954 cases (300 with anencephaly, 654 with spina bifida) and 6268 controls. Higher intakes of folate, thiamin, betaine, iron, and vitamin A were associated with decreased risk of anencephaly among some ethnic and clinical groups. In some groups, higher intakes of thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin E, niacin, and retinol were associated with decreased risk of spina bifida.
Conclusion
In addition to folic acid, other micronutrients, including thiamin, betaine, riboflavin, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin E, niacin, iron, retinol, and vitamin A, may decrease the risk of NTD occurrence.
doi:10.1002/bdra.23068
PMCID: PMC3518275  PMID: 22933447
Dietary periconceptional micronutrients; maternal nutrition; National Birth Defects Prevention Study; neural tube defects; one-carbon metabolism
8.  Associations between maternal genotypes and metabolites implicated in congenital heart defects 
Molecular genetics and metabolism  2012;107(3):596-604.
Background
The development of non-syndromic congenital heart defects (CHDs) involves a complex interplay of genetics, metabolism, and lifestyle. Previous studies have implicated maternal single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and altered metabolism in folate-related pathways as CHD risk factors.
Objective
We sought to discover associations between maternal SNPs and metabolites involved in the homocysteine, folate, and transsulfuration pathways, and determine if these associations differ between CHD cases and controls.
Design
Genetic, metabolic, demographic, and lifestyle information was available for 335 mothers with CHD-affected pregnancies and 263 mothers with unaffected pregnancies. Analysis was conducted on 1160 SNPs, 13 plasma metabolites, and 2 metabolite ratios. A two-stage multiple linear regression was fitted to each combination of SNP and metabolite/ratio.
Results
We identified 4 SNPs in the methionine adenosyltransferase II alpha (MAT2A) gene that were associated with methionine levels. Three SNPs in tRNA aspartic acid methyltransferase 1 (TRDMT1) gene were associated with total plasma folate levels. Glutamylcysteine (GluCys) levels were associated with multiple SNPs within the glutathione peroxidase 6 (GPX6) and O-6-methylguanine-DNA methyltransferase (MGMT) genes. The regression model revealed interactions between genotype and case-control status in the association of total plasma folate, total glutathione (GSH), and free GSH, to SNPs within the MGMT, 5,10-methenyltetrahydrofolate synthetase (MTHFS), and catalase (CAT) genes, respectively.
Conclusions
Our study provides further evidence that genetic variation within folate-related pathways accounts for inter-individual variability in key metabolites. We identified specific SNP-metabolite relationships that differed in mothers with CHD-affected pregnancies, compared to controls. Our results underscore the importance of multifactorial studies to define maternal CHD risk.
doi:10.1016/j.ymgme.2012.09.022
PMCID: PMC3523122  PMID: 23059056
9.  Lack of maternal folic acid supplementation is associated with heart defects in Down syndrome: a report from the National Down Syndrome Project 
BACKGROUND
Maternal folic acid supplementation has been associated with a reduced risk for neural tube defects, and may be associated with a reduced risk for congenital heart defects, and other birth defects. Individuals with Down syndrome are at high risk for congenital heart defects and have been shown to have abnormal folate metabolism.
METHODS
As part of the population-based case-control National Down Syndrome Project, 1011 mothers of infants with Down syndrome reported their use of folic acid-containing supplements. These data were used to determine whether lack of periconceptional maternal folic acid supplementation is associated with congenital heart defects in Down syndrome. We used logistic regression to test the relationship between maternal folic acid supplementation and the frequency of specific heart defects correcting for maternal race/ethnicity, proband sex, maternal use of alcohol and cigarettes, and maternal age at conception.
RESULTS
Lack of maternal folic acid supplementation was more frequent among infants with Down syndrome and atrioventricular septal defects (OR=1.69; 95% CI, 1.08–2.63; P=0.011) or atrial septal defects (OR=1.69; 95% CI, 1.11–2.58; P=0.007) than among infants with Down syndrome and no heart defect. Preliminary evidence suggests that the patterns of association differ by race/ethnicity and sex of the proband. There was no statistically significant association with ventricular septal defects (OR=1.26; 95% CI, 0.85–1.87; P=0.124).
CONCLUSIONS
Our results suggest that lack of maternal folic acid supplementation is associated with septal defects in infants with Down syndrome.
doi:10.1002/bdra.22848
PMCID: PMC3233972  PMID: 21987466
Atrial septal defect; Atrioventricular septal defect; Congenital heart defect; Down syndrome; Folic acid
10.  Cheek swabs, SNP chips, and CNVs: Assessing the quality of copy number variant calls generated with subject-collected mail-in buccal brush DNA samples on a high-density genotyping microarray 
BMC Medical Genetics  2012;13:51.
Background
Multiple investigators have established the feasibility of using buccal brush samples to genotype single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) with high-density genome-wide microarrays, but there is currently no consensus on the accuracy of copy number variants (CNVs) inferred from these data. Regardless of the source of DNA, it is more difficult to detect CNVs than to genotype SNPs using these microarrays, and it therefore remains an open question whether buccal brush samples provide enough high-quality DNA for this purpose.
Methods
To demonstrate the quality of CNV calls generated from DNA extracted from buccal samples, compared to calls generated from blood samples, we evaluated the concordance of calls from individuals who provided both sample types. The Illumina Human660W-Quad BeadChip was used to determine SNPs and CNVs of 39 Arkansas participants in the National Birth Defects Prevention Study (NBDPS), including 16 mother-infant dyads, who provided both whole blood and buccal brush DNA samples.
Results
We observed a 99.9% concordance rate of SNP calls in the 39 blood–buccal pairs. From the same dataset, we performed a similar analysis of CNVs. Each of the 78 samples was independently segmented into regions of like copy number using the Optimal Segmentation algorithm of Golden Helix SNP & Variation Suite 7.
Across 640,663 loci on 22 autosomal chromosomes, segment-mean log R ratios had an average correlation of 0.899 between blood-buccal pairs of samples from the same individual, while the average correlation between all possible blood-buccal pairs of samples from unrelated individuals was 0.318. An independent analysis using the QuantiSNP algorithm produced average correlations of 0.943 between blood-buccal pairs from the same individual versus 0.332 between samples from unrelated individuals.
Segment-mean log R ratios had an average correlation of 0.539 between mother-offspring dyads of buccal samples, which was not statistically significantly different than the average correlation of 0.526 between mother-offspring dyads of blood samples (p=0.302).
Conclusions
We observed performance from the subject-collected mail-in buccal brush samples comparable to that of blood. These results show that such DNA samples can be used for genome-wide scans of both SNPs and CNVs, and that high rates of CNV concordance were achieved whether using a change-point-based algorithm or one based on a hidden Markov model (HMM).
doi:10.1186/1471-2350-13-51
PMCID: PMC3506514  PMID: 22734463
SNPs, Single nucleotide polymorphisms; CNVs, Copy number variants; NBDPS, National Birth Defects Prevention Study; Buccal brush
11.  Association between Selected Folate Pathway Polymorphisms and Nonsyndromic Limb Reduction Defects: A Case-Parental Analysis 
SUMMARY
Inadequate folate status due to either genetic variation or nutritional deficiencies has been associated with an increased risk of congenital malformations including orofacial clefting, limb, cardiac and neural tube defects. Few epidemiologic studies have examined the association between limb reduction defects (LRDs) and folate-related genetic polymorphisms other than MTHFR 677C→T. We conducted a case–parental analysis of 148 families who participated in the National Birth Defects Prevention Study (NBDPS) to examine the association between nonsyndromic transverse and longitudinal LRDs with five single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in genes encoding for enzymes in folate and methionine pathways. Log-linear Poisson regression, adapted for analysis of case–parental data, assuming an additive genetic model was used to estimate genetic relative risks and 95% confidence intervals for the association between LRDs and each SNP. Among women who did not take multivitamin supplements, the MTHFR 677T variant acts via the offspring’s genome to increase the risk of LRDs. No association between LRDs and any fetal SNP was found among women who used multivitamin supplements. These results suggest the possibility that initiating folic acid supplementation prior to pregnancy may reduce the risk of having a LRD-affected pregnancy, especially in women whose offspring inherit one or two copies of the MTHFR 677T variant.
doi:10.1111/j.1365-3016.2010.01160.x
PMCID: PMC3050483  PMID: 21281325
Folic acid; homocysteine; MTHFR; polymorphisms; case-parental analysis
12.  Maternal DNA hypomethylation and congenital heart defects 
Background
Congenital heart defects (CHDs) are among the most prevalent and serious of birth defects. Multiple maternal factors are thought to contribute to CHD development including folate intake. Maternal DNA methylation, which is dependent on folate metabolism, may impact the risk of CHDs.
Objective
Our study was designed to determine whether maternal long interspersed nucleotide elements-1 (LINE-1) DNA hypomethylation is associated with increased occurrence of non-syndromic CHDs and whether maternal folate-dependent metabolites are correlated with DNA methylation status.
Design
Using a case-control study design, we measured global DNA methylation status among mothers whose pregnancies were affected by non-syndromic CHDs (n=180) and mothers of unaffected pregnancies (n=187). Methylation of LINE-1 was used as a surrogate marker of global DNA methylation status. The association between DNA methylation and CHD risk was determined while adjusting for selected lifestyle factors.
Results
LINE-1 DNA methylation was significantly lower in cases compared with controls (p=0.049). After covariate adjustments, a significant difference between cases and controls remained (p=0.010). Among women with LINE-1 methylation in the lowest decile of DNA methylation, the estimated risk of having a CHD-affected pregnancy was almost twice that of women in all other deciles (OR=1.91; 95% CI: 1.03, 3.58).
Conclusions
Our findings indicate that maternal LINE-1 DNA hypomethylation is associated with an increased risk of CHDs. Future studies investigating the association between maternal DNA methylation patterns and CHDs should be pursued.
doi:10.1002/bdra.20761
PMCID: PMC3168545  PMID: 21254366
Congenital heart defects; DNA methylation; LINE-1; folate; maternal biomarkers
13.  Drugs for malaria: something old, something new, something borrowed 
Malaria was estimated to cause 800,000 deaths and 225 million cases worldwide in 2010. Worryingly, the first-line treatment currently relies on a single drug class called artemisinins, and there are signs that the parasite is becoming resistant to these drugs. The good news is that new technology has given us new approaches to drug discovery. New drugs generated this way are probably 10-15 years away from the clinic. Other antimalarials that may offer hope include those rehabilitated after not being used for some time, those that act as inhibitors of resistance mechanisms, those that limit infection while allowing protective immunity to develop, and those which are drugs borrowed from other disease treatments. All of these offer new hope of turning the tables on malaria. In parallel with the effort to develop vaccines that interrupt malaria transmission, drugs that target the parasite during transmission to the mosquito or during its pre-erythrocytic development in the liver, may allow us to terminate the parasite’s spread.
doi:10.3410/B3-24
PMCID: PMC3206709  PMID: 22076126
14.  Maternal Folate-Related Gene Environment Interactions and Congenital Heart Defects 
Obstetrics and gynecology  2010;116(2 Pt 1):316-322.
Objective
To investigate whether women with congenital heart defect (CHD)-affected pregnancies were more likely to have functional single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in genes encoding enzymes in folate-dependent pathways.
Methods
A population-based case-control study of 572 women with CHD-affected pregnancies and 363 control women was conducted. DNA samples were genotyped for SNPs in three genes encoding for folate pathway enzymes. Maternal lifestyle factor information was obtained using standardized interviews.
Results
Case women were 1.5 times more likely to be obese (BMI of 30 or higher) compared to control women. Obese women carrying the MTHFR TT genotype were 4.6 times more likely to have an affected pregnancy compared to normal weight women carrying a CC genotype. Obese women carrying one or two copies of the A allele in the BHMT polymorphism were 1.8 times more likely to have a CHD-affected pregnancy than normal weight women carrying a BHMT GG genotype. Among women who smoked, those carrying a TCII CG or GG genotype were 1.8 times more likely to have an affected fetus than women who smoked and carried a CC genotype. Among women who drank alcohol, those carrying a TCII CG or GG genotype were 1.7 times more likely to have an affected fetus than women who drank and carried a CC genotype.
Conclusions
Results indicate that functional polymorphisms in folate-related genes increase the risk of having a fetus with CHD when maternal lifestyle factors that alter folate metabolism are present.
doi:10.1097/AOG.0b013e3181e80979
PMCID: PMC3027124  PMID: 20664391
15.  Maternal Genome-Wide DNA Methylation Patterns and Congenital Heart Defects 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(1):e16506.
The majority of congenital heart defects (CHDs) are thought to result from the interaction between multiple genetic, epigenetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. Epigenetic mechanisms are attractive targets in the study of complex diseases because they may be altered by environmental factors and dietary interventions. We conducted a population based, case-control study of genome-wide maternal DNA methylation to determine if alterations in gene-specific methylation were associated with CHDs. Using the Illumina Infinium Human Methylation27 BeadChip, we assessed maternal gene-specific methylation in over 27,000 CpG sites from DNA isolated from peripheral blood lymphocytes. Our study sample included 180 mothers with non-syndromic CHD-affected pregnancies (cases) and 187 mothers with unaffected pregnancies (controls). Using a multi-factorial statistical model, we observed differential methylation between cases and controls at multiple CpG sites, although no CpG site reached the most stringent level of genome-wide statistical significance. The majority of differentially methylated CpG sites were hypermethylated in cases and located within CpG islands. Gene Set Enrichment Analysis (GSEA) revealed that the genes of interest were enriched in multiple biological processes involved in fetal development. Associations with canonical pathways previously shown to be involved in fetal organogenesis were also observed. We present preliminary evidence that alterations in maternal DNA methylation may be associated with CHDs. Our results suggest that further studies involving maternal epigenetic patterns and CHDs are warranted. Multiple candidate processes and pathways for future study have been identified.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0016506
PMCID: PMC3031146  PMID: 21297937
16.  Neural Tube Defects and Maternal Biomarkers of Folate, Homocysteine, and Glutathione Metabolism 
Background
Alterations in maternal folate and homocysteine metabolism are associated with neural tube defects (NTDs). The role that specific micronutrients and metabolites play in the causal pathway leading to NTDs is not fully understood.
Methods
We conducted a case-control study to investigate the association between NTDs and maternal alterations in plasma micronutrients and metabolites in two metabolic pathways, the methionine remethylation and glutathione transsulfuration. Biomarkers were measured in a population-based sample of women who had NTD-affected pregnancies (n = 43) and a control group of women who had a pregnancy unaffected by a birth defect (n = 160). Plasma concentrations of folate, Vitamin B12, Vitamin B6, methionine, S-adenosylmethionine (SAM), s- adenosylhomocysteine (SAH), adenosine, homocysteine, cysteine, and reduced and oxidized glutathione were compared between cases and controls after adjusting for lifestyle and sociodemographic factors.
Results
Women with NTD-affected pregnancies had significantly higher plasma concentrations of SAH (29.12 vs. 23.13 nmol/L, P = 0.0011), adenosine (0.323 vs. 0.255 μmol/L, P = 0.0269), homocysteine (9.40 vs. 7.56 μmol/L, P < 0.001), and oxidized glutathione (0.379 vs. 0.262μmol/L, P = 0.0001), but lower plasma SAM concentration (78.99 vs. 83.16 nmol/L, P = 0.0172) than controls. This metabolic profile is consistent with reduced methylation capacity and increased oxidative stress in women with affected pregnancies.
Conclusions
Increased maternal oxidative stress and decreased methylation capacity may contribute to the occurrence of NTDs. Further analysis of relevant genetic and environmental factors is required to define the basis for these observed alterations.
doi:10.1002/bdra.20240
PMCID: PMC2964004  PMID: 16575882
Neural tube defects; maternal biomarkers; folate; methionine; homocysteine; glutathione
17.  Maternal age and risk for trisomy 21 assessed by the origin of chromosome nondisjunction: a report from the Atlanta and National Down Syndrome Projects 
Human genetics  2008;125(1):41-52.
We examined the association between maternal age and chromosome 21 nondisjunction by origin of the meiotic error. We analyzed data from two population-based, case–control studies: Atlanta Down Syndrome Project (1989–1999) and National Down Syndrome Project (2001–2004). Cases were live born infants with trisomy 21 and controls were infants without trisomy 21 delivered in the same geographical regions. We enrolled 1,215 of 1,881 eligible case families and 1,375 of 2,293 controls. We report four primary findings. First, the significant association between advanced maternal age and chromosome 21 nondisjunction was restricted to meiotic errors in the egg; the association was not observed in sperm or in post-zygotic mitotic errors. Second, advanced maternal age was significantly associated with both meiosis I (MI) and meiosis II (MII). For example, compared to mothers of controls, mothers of infants with trisomy 21 due to MI nondisjunction were 8.5 times more likely to be ≥40 years old than 20–24 years old at the birth of the index case (95% CI = 5.6–12.9). Where nondisjunction occurred in MII, mothers were 15.1 times more likely to be ≥40 years (95% CI = 8.4–27.3). Third, the ratio of MI to MII errors differed by maternal age. The ratio was lower among women <19 years of age and those ≥40 years (2.1, 2.3, respectively) and higher in the middle age group (3.6). Lastly, we found no effect of grand-maternal age on the risk for maternal nondisjunction. This study emphasizes the complex association between advanced maternal age and nondisjunction of chromosome 21 during oogenesis.
doi:10.1007/s00439-008-0603-8
PMCID: PMC2833410  PMID: 19050929
18.  Neural Tube Defects and Maternal Folate Intake Among Pregnancies Conceived After Folic Acid Fortification in the United States 
Rates of neural tube defects have decreased since folic acid fortification of the food supply in the United States. The authors’ objective was to evaluate the associations between neural tube defects and maternal folic acid intake among pregnancies conceived after fortification. This is a multicenter, case-control study that uses data from the National Birth Defects Prevention Study, 1998–2003. Logistic regression was used to compute crude and adjusted odds ratios between cases and controls assessing maternal periconceptional use of folic acid and intake of dietary folic acid. Among 180 anencephalic cases, 385 spina bifida cases, and 3, 963 controls, 21.1%, 25.2%, and 26.1%, respectively, reported periconceptional use of folic acid supplements. Periconceptional supplement use did not reduce the risk of having a pregnancy affected by a neural tube defect. Maternal intake of dietary folate was not significantly associated with neural tube defects. In this study conducted among pregnancies conceived after mandatory folic acid fortification, the authors found little evidence of an association between neural tube defects and maternal folic acid intake. A possible explanation is that folic acid fortification reduced the occurrence of folic acid-sensitive neural tube defects. Further investigation is warranted to possibly identify women who remain at increased risk of preventable neural tube defects.
doi:10.1093/aje/kwn331
PMCID: PMC3139973  PMID: 18953063
folic acid; neural tube defects
19.  HIV Protease Inhibitors Inhibit the Development of Preerythrocytic-Stage Plasmodium Parasites 
The Journal of Infectious Diseases  2009;199(1):134-141.
Recent studies have demonstrated that human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) protease inhibitors (PIs) exert inhibitory effects on erythrocytic stages of the human-malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum in vitro and on erythrocytic stages of the rodent-malaria parasite Plasmodium chabaudi in vivo. Although it remains unclear how HIV PIs inhibit the parasite, the effect seen on parasite development in the erythrocytic stages is potent. The effect on preerythrocytic stages has not yet been investigated. Using the rodent parasite Plasmodium berghei, we screened a panel of HIV PIs in vitro for effects on the preerythrocytic stages. Our data indicated that the HIV PIs lopinavir and saquinavir affect preerythrocytic-stage parasite development in vitro. We then evaluated the effect of HIV PIs on preerythrocytic stages in vivo using the rodent parasite Plasmodium yoelii. We found that lopinavir/ritonavir had a dose-dependent effect on liver-stage parasite development. Given that sub-Saharan Africa is where the HIV/AIDS pandemic intersects with malaria, these results merit analysis in clinical settings.
doi:10.1086/594369
PMCID: PMC3988424  PMID: 19032102
20.  The National Down Syndrome Project: Design and Implementation 
Public Health Reports  2007;122(1):62-72.
SYNOPSIS
Objective
The National Down Syndrome Project (NDSP), based at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, represents a multi-site, population-based, case-control study with two major aims: (1) to identify molecular and epidemiological factors contributing to chromosome nondisjunction and the consequent packaging of an extra chromosome into an egg or sperm, and (2) to identify risk factors for Down syndrome-associated birth defects.
Methods
The six national sites represent approximately 11% of U.S. births. Cases were newborns with Down syndrome (trisomy 21), and controls were infants without major birth defects randomly selected from the same birth populations. Biological samples were collected from case infants and their parents, and genetic markers were typed to determine the parental origin of chromosome 21 nondisjunction. Each site interviewed parents of case and control infants addressing pregnancy, medical and family history, occupation, and exposures. Sites collected medical information on case infants.
Results
The NDSP enrolled 907 infants as cases and 977 infants as controls (participation rates: 60.7% for cases; 56.9% for controls). Participation rates varied widely by site as did important demographic factors such as maternal age, race, and education. Nondisjunction during oogenesis accounted for 93.2% of the cases. Errors in spermatogenesis were found in 4.1%, and 2.7% were post-zygotic errors.
Conclusions
This exceptional compilation of questionnaire, clinical, and molecular data makes the NDSP a unique resource for ongoing studies of the etiology and phenotypic consequences of trisomy 21. The combined approach increases study power by defining subgroups of cases by the origin of nondisjunction. This report describes the design and successful implementation of the NDSP.
PMCID: PMC1802119  PMID: 17236610

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