Resistance to malaria through structural variation of red blood cell invasion receptors
Leffler E., Band G., Busby GBJ., Kivinen K., Si Le Q., Clarke G., Bojang K., Conway D., Jallow M., Sisay-Joof F., Bougouma E., Mangano V., Modiano D., Sirima S., Achidi E., Apinjoh T., Marsh K., Ndila C., Peshu N., Williams T., Drakeley C., Manjurano A., Reyburn H., Riley E., Kachala D., Molyneux M., Nyirongo V., Taylor T., Thornton N., Tilley L., Grimsley S., Drury E., Stalker J., Cornelius V., Hubbart C., Jeffreys A., Rowlands K., Rockett K., Spencer CCA., Kwiatkowski D., Malaria Genomic Epidemiology Network None.
Plasmodium falciparum invades human red blood cells by a series of interactions between host and parasite surface proteins. Here we analyse whole genome sequence data from worldwide human populations, including 765 new genomes from across sub-Saharan Africa, and identify a diverse array of large copy number variants affecting the host invasion receptor genes GYPA and GYPB . We find that a nearby reported association with severe malaria is explained by a complex structural variant that involves the loss of GYPB and gain of two hybrid genes, each with a GYPB extracellular domain and GYPA intracellular domain. This variant reduces the risk of severe malaria by 40% and has recently risen in frequency in parts of Kenya. We show that the structural variant encodes the Dantu blood group antigen, and therefore a serologically distinct red cell phenotype. These findings demonstrate that structural variation of red blood cell invasion receptors is associated with natural resistance to P. falciparum malaria.