Whole-blood transcriptional signatures composed of erythropoietic and NRF2-Regulated genes differ between cerebral malaria and severe malarial anemia

Srinivas Nallandhighal, Gregory S. Park, Yen Yi Ho, Robert O. Opoka, Chandy C. John, Tuan M. Tran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

8 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background Among the severe malaria syndromes, severe malarial anemia (SMA) is the most common, whereas cerebral malaria (CM) is the most lethal. However, the mechanisms that lead to CM and SMA are unclear. Methods We compared transcriptomic profiles of whole blood obtained from Ugandan children with acute CM (n = 17) or SMA (n = 17) and community children without Plasmodium falciparum infection (n = 12) and determined the relationships among gene expression, hematological indices, and relevant plasma biomarkers. Results Both CM and SMA demonstrated predominantly upregulated enrichment of dendritic cell activation, inflammatory/Toll-like receptor/chemokines, and monocyte modules, but downregulated enrichment of lymphocyte modules. Nuclear factor, erythroid 2 like 2 (Nrf2)-regulated genes were overexpressed in children with SMA relative to CM, with the highest expression in children with both SMA and sickle cell disease (HbSS), corresponding with elevated plasma heme oxygenase-1 in this group. Erythroid and reticulocyte-specific signatures were markedly decreased in CM relative to SMA despite higher hemoglobin levels and appropriate increases in erythropoietin. Viral sensing/interferon-regulatory factor 2 module expression and plasma interferon-inducible protein-10/CXCL10 negatively correlated with reticulocyte-specific signatures. Conclusions Compared with SMA, CM is associated with downregulation of Nrf2-related and erythropoiesis signatures by whole-blood transcriptomics. Future studies are needed to confirm these findings and assess pathways that may be amenable to interventions to ameliorate CM and SMA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)154-164
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Infectious Diseases
Volume219
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

Keywords

  • Plasmodium falciparum
  • cerebral malaria
  • gene expression profiling
  • severe malarial anemia
  • transcriptomics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Infectious Diseases

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