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Infect Immun. 2008 Oct;76(10):4518-29. doi: 10.1128/IAI.00525-08. Epub 2008 Jul 21.

Host biomarkers and biological pathways that are associated with the expression of experimental cerebral malaria in mice.

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Laboratory of Malaria and Vector Research, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA.


Cerebral malaria (CM) is a primary cause of malaria-associated deaths among young African children. Yet no diagnostic tools are available that could be used to predict which of the children infected with Plasmodium falciparum malaria will progress to CM. We used the Plasmodium berghei ANKA murine model of experimental cerebral malaria (ECM) and high-density oligonucleotide microarray analyses to identify host molecules that are strongly associated with the clinical symptoms of ECM. Comparative expression analyses were performed with C57BL/6 mice, which have an ECM-susceptible phenotype, and with mice that have ECM-resistant phenotypes: CD8 knockout and perforin knockout mice on the C57BL/6 background and BALB/c mice. These analyses allowed the identification of more than 200 host molecules (a majority of which had not been identified previously) with altered expression patterns in the brain that are strongly associated with the manifestation of ECM. Among these host molecules, brain samples from mice with ECM expressed significantly higher levels of p21, metallothionein, and hemoglobin alpha1 proteins by Western blot analysis than mice unaffected by ECM, suggesting the possible utility of these molecules as prognostic biomarkers of CM in humans. We suggest that the higher expression of hemoglobin alpha1 in the brain may be associated with ECM and could be a source of excess heme, a molecule that is considered to trigger the pathogenesis of CM. Our studies greatly enhance the repertoire of host molecules for use as diagnostics and novel therapeutics in CM.

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