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Nature. 2004 Jul 22;430(6998):417.

Evolutionary genetics: Ambiguous role of CCR5 in Y. pestis infection.

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  • 1Defence Science and Technology Laboratories, Porton Down, Salisbury SP4 0JQ, UK.


Mecsas and colleagues suggest that a deficiency in the chemokine receptor CCR5 in humans is unlikely to confer protection against plague, based on their study of Yersinia pestis infection in Ccr5-deficient mice. They were testing the hypothesis that a mutation in the CCR5 gene, frequently found in Caucasians, may have been selected for in the past because it provided protection against (bubonic) plague; the mutation, called CCR5Delta32, is characterized by a 32-base-pair deletion. We have also tested this hypothesis by using Y. pestis infection in mice and, in addition, we have done phagocytosis experiments with macrophages from wild-type and Ccr5-deficient mice. Although, like Mecsas et al., we did not see any difference in the survival of the two groups of mice, we did find that there was a significantly reduced uptake of Y. pestis by Ccr5-deficient macrophages in vitro. Our results indicate that the role of Ccr5 in Y. pestis infection may therefore be more complex than previously thought.

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