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Parasitology. 1996;112 Suppl:S67-74.

Genetic susceptibility to leishmanial infections: studies in mice and man.

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University of Cambridge Clinical School, Department of Medicine, Addenbrooke's Hospital, UK.


Two important recent advances in Leishmania immunology are: (i) the demonstration of a dramatic dichotomy in T helper 1 versus T helper 2 subset expansion leading to protection versus disease exacerbation; and (ii) analysis of the macrophage activation pathways leading to enhanced intracellular killing of parasites, in particular the tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNF alpha)-dependent sustained induction of the inducible nitric oxide synthase gene (Nos2) leading to the generation of large amounts of nitric oxide (NO). Given the broad spectrum of disease phenotypes in human leishmaniasis, one might predict that a genetic defect at any key point in this macrophage activation pathway and/or in pathways leading to activation of different T cell subsets, and the latter may be a pleiotropic effect of the former, will contribute to disease susceptibility. By studying disease in genetically-defined inbred mouse strains, it has been possible to identify 5 regions of the murine genome carrying leishmanial susceptibility genes. The genes include: (i) Scl-2 (mouse chromosome 4/human chromosome 9p; candidate Janus tyrosine kinase 1) controlling a unique no lesion growth resistance phenotype to Leishmania mexicana; (ii) Scl-1 (distal mouse chromosome 11/human 17q; candidates Nos2, Sigje, MIP1 alpha, MIP1 beta) controlling healing versus non-healing responses to L. major; (iii) the 'T helper 2' cytokine gene cluster (proximal murine chromosome 11/human 5p; candidates IL4,5,9) controlling later phases of L. major infection; (iv) the major histocompatibility complex (MHC: H-2 in mouse, HLA in man: mouse chromosome 17/human 6p; candidates class II and class III including TNF alpha/beta genes); and (v) Nramp1, the positionally cloned candidate for the murine macrophage resistance gene Ity/Lsh/Bcg (mouse chromosome 1/human 2q35). This review examines these 5 regions and the candidate genes within them, reflecting on their current status as candidates for human disease susceptibility genes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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