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Infect Immun. 2011 Jun;79(6):2379-84. doi: 10.1128/IAI.01136-10. Epub 2011 Mar 21.

Differential microRNA expression in experimental cerebral and noncerebral malaria.

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  • 1Vascular Immunology Unit, Discipline of Pathology, Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney, Camperdown, New South Wales, Australia.


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are posttranscriptional regulatory molecules that have been implicated in the regulation of immune responses, but their role in the immune response to Plasmodium infection is unknown. We studied the expression of selected miRNAs following infection of CBA mice with Plasmodium berghei ANKA (PbA), which causes cerebral malaria (CM), or Plasmodium berghei K173 (PbK), which causes severe malaria but without cerebral complications, termed non-CM. The differential expression profiles of selected miRNAs (let-7i, miR-27a, miR-150, miR-126, miR-210, and miR-155) were analyzed in mouse brain and heart tissue by quantitative reverse transcription-PCR (qRT-PCR). We identified three miRNAs that were differentially expressed in the brain of PbA-infected CBA mice: let7i, miR-27a, and miR-150. In contrast, no miRNA changes were detected in the heart, an organ with no known pathology during acute malaria. To investigate the involvement of let-7i, miR-27a, and miR-150 in CM-resistant mice, we assessed the expression levels in gamma interferon knockout (IFN-γ(-/-)) mice on a C57BL/6 genetic background. The expression of let-7i, miR-27a, and miR-150 was unchanged in both wild-type (WT) and IFN-γ(-/-) mice following infection. Overexpression of these three miRNAs during PbA, but not PbK, infection in WT mice may be critical for the triggering of the neurological syndrome via regulation of their potential downstream targets. Our data suggest that in the CBA mouse at least, miRNA may have a regulatory role in the pathogenesis of severe malaria.

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