Human candidate polymorphisms and malaria susceptibility in sympatric ethnic groups, The Fulani and The Dogon of Mali

By: Maiga Bakary

Opponent: Professor Lars Hviid (University of Copenhagen, Denmark


In malaria endemic regions, resistance to malaria constitutes a critical selective pressureon genetic polymorphisms that regulate immune defense and inflammatory pathways.Differences in malaria susceptibility between sympatric ethnic groups have been described inMali. The Fulani are less susceptible to malaria compared to the neighboring group the Dogon,in spite of similar socio-economic and environmental conditions.

Paper I is focused on IL-4-590 T/C polymorphism and correlation with levels of malariaspecific IgG, IgG (1-4) subclasses as well as malaria specific and total IgE level in the two ethnicgroups. Our data show that the Fulani individual carrying the IL-4-590 T allele found to havehigher parasite carriage rate and had higher levels of malaria-specific IgG4 and IgE compared tothe individual carrying the C allele. No such differences were seen within the Dogon.Paper II investigated 166 SNPs in the human host in individuals belonging to the Fulani and theDogon ethnic groups. These SNPs were correlated with total IgG against AMA-1, MSP-1, MSP-2 and CSP antigens as well as total IgE level. All antibody levels were higher in the Fulanicompared to the Dogon and strengthens previous finding that antibodies might play a role in theprotection seen in the Fulani. We identified higher frequencies of the protective blood group O.Several allelic differences between the two ethnic groups were found in CD36, IL-4, RTN3 andADCY9. Moreover several polymorphisms in SLC22A4, IRF1, IL5, LTA and TNF have beenfound to be correlated with anti-MSP antibody level; TLR6, IL3, TNF, and IL22 found to becorrelated with anti-MSP-2 antibody level in the Fulani. Such association was not seen in theDogon.

In Paper III, the same individuals, as in paper II, were investigated with a focus on the FcγRIIapolymorphism and correlation with levels of anti-AMA-1, MSP-1, MSP-2, CSP specificantibodies as well as total IgE level. The genotype distribution and allele frequency weresignificantly different between the Fulani and the Dogon with the Fulani being HH, H allele- andthe Dogon RR, R allele carriers. A correlation between the HH genotype and the H allele andprotection against mild malaria was seen in the Fulani but not in the DogonTaken together our study has found significant genetic differences between the Fulani and theDogon Ethnic groups, which suggest that ethnicity should be taken into account in monitoring ofimmunological studies and vaccines trials in malaria endemic areas.

Key words: Malaria, Fulani, Dogon, Blood group, SNPs, IL-4, FcγRIIa, antibody level