Anti-Self Phosphatidylserine Antibodies Recognize Uninfected Erythrocytes Promoting Malarial Anemia
Plasmodium species, the parasitic agents of malaria, invade erythrocytes to reproduce, resulting in erythrocyte loss. However, a greater loss is caused by the elimination of uninfected erythrocytes, sometimes long after infection has been cleared. Using a mouse model, we found that Plasmodium infection induces the generation of anti-self antibodies that bind to the surface of uninfected erythrocytes from infected, but not uninfected, mice. These antibodies recognize phosphatidylserine, which is exposed on the surface of a fraction of uninfected erythrocytes during malaria. We find that phosphatidylserine-exposing erythrocytes are reticulocytes expressing high levels of CD47, a "do-not-eat-me" signal, but the binding of anti-phosphatidylserine antibodies mediates their phagocytosis, contributing to anemia. In human patients with late postmalarial anemia, we found a strong inverse correlation between the levels of anti-phosphatidylserine antibodies and plasma hemoglobin, suggesting a similar role in humans. Inhibition of this pathway may be exploited for treating malarial anemia.
Angiotensin receptors and beta-catenin regulate brain endothelial integrity in malaria
Cerebral malaria is characterized by cytoadhesion of Plasmodium falciparum-infected red blood cells (Pf-iRBCs) to endothelial cells in the brain, disruption of the blood-brain barrier, and cerebral microhemorrhages. No available antimalarial drugs specifically target the endothelial disruptions underlying this complication, which is responsible for the majority of malaria-associated deaths. Here, we have demonstrated that ruptured Pf-iRBCs induce activation of beta-catenin, leading to disruption of inter-endothelial cell junctions in human brain microvascular endothelial cells (HBMECs). Inhibition of beta-catenin-induced TCF/LEF transcription in the nucleus of HBMECs prevented the disruption of endothelial junctions, confirming that beta-catenin is a key mediator of P. falciparum adverse effects on endothelial integrity. Blockade of the angiotensin II type 1 receptor (AT1) or stimulation of the type 2 receptor (AT2) abrogated Pf-iRBC-induced activation of beta-catenin and prevented the disruption of HBMEC monolayers. In a mouse model of cerebral malaria, modulation of angiotensin II receptors produced similar effects, leading to protection against cerebral malaria, reduced cerebral hemorrhages, and increased survival. In contrast, AT2-deficient mice were more susceptible to cerebral malaria. The interrelation of the beta-catenin and the angiotensin II signaling pathways opens immediate host-targeted therapeutic possibilities for cerebral malaria and other diseases in which brain endothelial integrity is compromised.
Atypical activation of dendritic cells by Plasmodium falciparum
Dendritic cells (DCs) are activated by pathogens to initiate and shape immune responses. We found that the activation of DCs by Plasmodium falciparum, the main causative agent of human malaria, induces a highly unusual phenotype by which DCs up-regulate costimulatory molecules and secretion of chemokines, but not of cytokines typical of inflammatory responses (IL-1beta, IL-6, IL-10, TNF). Similar results were obtained with DCs obtained from malaria-naive US donors and malaria-experienced donors from Mali. Contact-dependent cross-talk between the main DC subsets, plasmacytoid and myeloid DCs (mDCs) was necessary for increased chemokine and IFN-alpha secretion in response to the parasite. Despite the absence of inflammatory cytokine secretion, mDCs incubated with P. falciparum-infected erythrocytes activated antigen-specific naive CD4+ T cells to proliferate and secrete Th1-like cytokines. This unexpected response of human mDCs to P. falciparum exhibited a transcriptional program distinct from a classical LPS response, pointing to unique P. falciparum-induced activation pathways that may explain the uncharacteristic immune response to malaria.
Plasmodium DNA-mediated TLR9 activation of T-bet+ B cells contributes to autoimmune anaemia during malaria
Infectious pathogens contribute to the development of autoimmune disorders, but the mechanisms connecting these processes are incompletely understood. Here we show that Plasmodium DNA induces autoreactive responses against erythrocytes by activating a population of B cells expressing CD11c and the transcription factor T-bet, which become major producers of autoantibodies that promote malarial anaemia. Additionally, we identify parasite DNA-sensing through Toll-like receptor 9 (TLR9) along with inflammatory cytokine receptor IFN-gamma receptor (IFN-gammaR) as essential signals that synergize to promote the development and appearance of these autoreactive T-bet+ B cells. The lack of any of these signals ameliorates malarial anaemia during infection in a mouse model. We also identify both expansion of T-bet+ B cells and production of anti-erythrocyte antibodies in ex vivo cultures of naive human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) exposed to P. falciprum infected erythrocyte lysates. We propose that synergistic TLR9/IFN-gammaR activation of T-bet+ B cells is a mechanism underlying infection-induced autoimmune-like responses.
Plasmodium-induced inflammation by uric acid
Infection of erythrocytes with the Plasmodium parasite causes the pathologies associated with malaria, which result in at least one million deaths annually. The rupture of infected erythrocytes triggers an inflammatory response, which is induced by parasite-derived factors that still are not fully characterized. Induced secretion of inflammatory cytokines by these factors is considered a major cause of malaria pathogenesis. In particular, the inflammatory cytokine tumor necrosis factor (TNF) is thought to mediate most of the life-threatening pathologies of the disease. Here we describe the molecular characterization of a novel pathway that results in the secretion of TNF by host cells. We found that erythrocytes infected by Plasmodium accumulate high concentrations of hypoxanthine and xanthine. Degradation of Plasmodium-derived hypoxanthine/xanthine results in the formation of uric acid, which triggers the secretion of TNF. Since uric acid is considered a 'danger signal' released by dying cells to alert the immune system, Plasmodium appears to have co-evolved to exploit this warning system. Identifying the mechanisms used by the parasite to induce the host inflammatory response is essential to develop urgently needed therapies against this disease
Malaria blood stage suppression of liver stage immunity by dendritic cells
Malaria starts with Plasmodium sporozoites infection of the host's liver, where development into blood stage parasites occurs. It is not clear why natural infections do not induce protection against the initial liver stage and generate low CD8(+) T cell responses. Using a rodent malaria model, we show that Plasmodium blood stage infection suppresses CD8(+) T cell immune responses that were induced against the initial liver stage. Blood stage Plasmodium affects dendritic cell (DC) functions, inhibiting maturation and the capacity to initiate immune responses and inverting the interleukin (IL)-12/IL-10 secretion pattern. The interaction of blood stage parasites with DCs induces the secretion of soluble factors that inhibit the activation of CD8(+) T cells in vitro and the suppression of protective CD8(+) T cell responses against the liver stage in vivo. We propose that blood stage infection induces DCs to suppress CD8(+) T cell responses in natural malaria infections. This evasion mechanism leaves the host unprotected against reinfection by inhibiting the immune response against the initial liver stage of the disease
Migration through host cells activates Plasmodium sporozoites for infection
Plasmodium sporozoites, the infective stage of the malaria parasite transmitted by mosquitoes, migrate through several hepatocytes before infecting a final one. Migration through hepatocytes occurs by breaching their plasma membranes, and final infection takes place with the formation of a vacuole around the sporozoite. Once in the liver, sporozoites have already reached their target cells, making migration through hepatocytes prior to infection seem unnecessary. Here we show that this migration is required for infection of hepatocytes. Migration through host cells, but not passive contact with hepatocytes, induces the exocytosis of sporozoite apical organelles, a prerequisite for infection with formation of a vacuole. Sporozoite activation induced by migration through host cells is an essential step of Plasmodium life cycle
Migration of Plasmodium sporozoites through cells before infection
Intracellular bacteria and parasites typically invade host cells through the formation of an internalization vacuole around the invading pathogen. Plasmodium sporozoites, the infective stage of the malaria parasite transmitted by mosquitoes, have an alternative mechanism to enter cells. We observed breaching of the plasma membrane of the host cell followed by rapid repair. This mode of entry did not result in the formation of a vacuole around the sporozoite, and was followed by exit of the parasite from the host cell. Sporozoites traversed the cytosol of several cells before invading a hepatocyte by formation of a parasitophorous vacuole, in which they developed into the next infective stage. Sporozoite migration through several cells in the mammalian host appears to be essential for the completion of the life cycle
Discovery of an orally active nitrothiophene-based antitrypanosomal agent
Human African Trypanosomiasis (HAT), caused by Trypanosoma brucei gambiense and rhodesiense, is a parasitic disease endemic to sub-Saharan Africa. Untreated cases of HAT can be severely debilitating and fatal. Although the number of reported cases has decreased progressively over the last decade, the number of effective and easily administered medications is very limited. In this work, we report the antitrypanosomal activity of a series of potent compounds. A subset of molecules in the series are highly selective for trypanosomes and are metabolically stable. One of the compounds, (E)-N-(4-(methylamino)-4-oxobut-2-en-1-yl)-5-nitrothiophene-2-carboxamide (10), selectively inhibited the growth of T. b. brucei, T. b. gambiense and T. b. rhodesiense, have excellent oral bioavailability and was effective in treating acute infection of HAT in mouse models. Based on its excellent bioavailability, compound 10 and its analogs are candidates for lead optimization and pre-clinical investigations.
Endothelial transcriptomic analysis identifies biomarkers of severe and cerebral malaria
Malaria can quickly progress from an uncomplicated infection into a life-threatening severe disease. However, the unspecificity of early symptoms often makes it difficult to identify patients at high risk of developing severe disease. Additionally, one of the most feared malaria complications - cerebral malaria - is challenging to diagnose, often resulting in treatment delays that can lead to adverse outcomes. To identify candidate biomarkers for the prognosis and/or diagnosis of severe and cerebral malaria, we have analyzed the transcriptomic response of human brain microvascular endothelial cells to erythrocytes infected with Plasmodium falciparum. Candidates were validated in plasma samples from a cohort of pediatric patients with malaria from Mozambique, resulting in the identification of several markers with capacity to distinguish uncomplicated from severe malaria, the most potent being the metallopeptidase ADAMTS18. Two other biomarkers, Angiopoietin-like-4 and Inhibin-βE were able to differentiate children with cerebral malaria within the severe malaria group, showing increased sensitivity after combination in a biomarker signature. The validation of the predicted candidate biomarkers in plasma of children with severe and cerebral malaria underscores the power of this transcriptomic approach and indicates that a specific endothelial response to P. falciparum-infected erythrocytes is linked to the pathophysiology of severe malaria.