Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

TSRI scientists show that rare genetic mutations increase susceptibility to sepsis

29.04.2003


A group of researchers from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have discovered rare genetic mutations in a subset of people who come down with a particular kind of severe sepsis, an acute and often deadly disease.



These rare mutations in a human gene called TLR4 lend susceptibility to meningococcal sepsis, which strikes over 2,500 people a year in the United States. About half of those who contract meningococcal sepsis are younger than the age of two, and the disease has an overall case fatality rate of 12 percent.

"It’s a very fast-moving, dramatic, and often fatal disease," says TSRI Immunology Professor Bruce Beutler, who led the research, which will be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


"We took a large number of people with meningococcal sepsis and compared them to normal controls who were ethnically and geographically matched," says Beutler. "We found that the TLR4 gene had more mutations in the sepsis populations."

Besides demonstrating that the risk of severe sepsis increases with these mutations, which can be passed from parent to child, the study also suggests that it may be possible to protect people who are at risk. While not practical at the moment, eventually patients with mutations to their TLR4 genes might be given prophylactic treatment, for instance, before they undergo surgery or travel somewhere they are likely to be exposed to meningococcal bacteria.

Blinding the Immune System

Scientists had suspected that genetic factors determine who gets the severe form of the disease and who does not. Evidence for this was seen during outbreaks of this disease, when the severe and deadly form of sepsis was more likely to strike related individuals.

Further evidence was seen in mice, and it was known for years that certain strains of mice are more susceptible to infections with bacteria like N. meningitides--but nobody had ever shown this to be true in humans. Now, the TSRI team found a number of rare mutations in one essential gene in the innate immune system called Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4), which is important in endotoxin recognition, giving people a higher probability of contracting meningococcal sepsis.

TLR4 is part of the mammalian endotoxin receptor and is an important gene because it detects the early stages of a bacterial infection. It is a powerful pro-inflammatory receptor, responsible for activating the immune system to attack invading gram-negative bacteria like N. meningitidis. During a mammalian innate immune response, TLR4 recognizes endotoxins from the bacteria and activates macrophages, which then ingest and destroy the foreign pathogens.

"The TLRs are the eyes of the innate immune system," says Beutler, who had suspected that these eyes may be myopic for some people and that mutations in the TLR4 gene may underlie the genetic component of severe sepsis.

In order to address this, Beutler looked for extremely rare mutations in the gene by obtaining hundreds of samples of DNA from his collaborator Martin L. Hibberd, then a doctor at Imperial College in London (Hibberd has since taken a position at the Genome Institute of Singapore). He then amplified and sequenced the entire TLR4 gene from each patient, looking for all the rare mutations that are present in the gene--rather than taking the traditional approach of looking at one common mutation within that gene.

After the researchers had analyzed all the genetic information, they found a significant excess of low frequency mutations in the TLR4 genes of the people who had contracted sepsis versus the control group.

Instead of asking how many people have one given mutation, Beutler and his colleagues simply asked how many people have any genetic variation. A few individuals had the same mutations, but by and large they were single, isolated mutations. "However," warns Beutler, "we can only account for a certain fraction of the [genetic] risk."

Nevertheless, this is the first time that a comparison of the collective mutations at a given genetic locus has been made in any infectious disease. Infectious diseases are, after all, primarily caused by an invading organism, and only in recent times has a concerted effort been made to find genetic determinants of susceptibility in the patient. Beutler and his team had to write special software to make the comparison of the thousand different sequences possible and find the individual mutations therein. Significantly, the technique of measuring the genetic variation “load” of the entire gene locus could be applied to other sorts of diseases as well: particularly diseases in which both genes and environment play a role.



The article, "Assay Of Locus-Specific Genetic Load Implicates Rare Tlr4 Mutations in Meningococcal Susceptibility," is authored by Irina Smirnova, Navjiwan Mann, Annemiek Dols, H. H. Derkx, Martin L. Hibberd, Michael Levin, and Bruce Beutler. The article will be available online the week of April 28, 2003 at: http://www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.10311605100, and will be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Journalists can request a preprint of the paper from pnasnews@nas.edu.


This work was supported by The National Institutes of Health and also by the Meningitis Research Foundation, a United Kingdom charity.

Jason Bardi | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.scripps.edu/
http://www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.10311605100

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Usher syndrome: Gene therapy restores hearing and balance
25.09.2017 | Institut Pasteur

nachricht MRI contrast agent locates and distinguishes aggressive from slow-growing breast cancer
25.09.2017 | Case Western Reserve University

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: The fastest light-driven current source

Controlling electronic current is essential to modern electronics, as data and signals are transferred by streams of electrons which are controlled at high speed. Demands on transmission speeds are also increasing as technology develops. Scientists from the Chair of Laser Physics and the Chair of Applied Physics at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have succeeded in switching on a current with a desired direction in graphene using a single laser pulse within a femtosecond ¬¬ – a femtosecond corresponds to the millionth part of a billionth of a second. This is more than a thousand times faster compared to the most efficient transistors today.

Graphene is up to the job

Im Focus: LaserTAB: More efficient and precise contacts thanks to human-robot collaboration

At the productronica trade fair in Munich this November, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be presenting Laser-Based Tape-Automated Bonding, LaserTAB for short. The experts from Aachen will be demonstrating how new battery cells and power electronics can be micro-welded more efficiently and precisely than ever before thanks to new optics and robot support.

Fraunhofer ILT from Aachen relies on a clever combination of robotics and a laser scanner with new optics as well as process monitoring, which it has developed...

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Nerves control the body’s bacterial community

26.09.2017 | Life Sciences

Four elements make 2-D optical platform

26.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Goodbye, login. Hello, heart scan

26.09.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>