An immunity gene evolved in Southeast Asia to protect against leprosy

A mutation in an immune system gene rapidly rose in frequency in Southeast Asia approximately 50,000 years ago because it likely conferred protection against leprosy, which spread to the region from Africa around the same time. The findings, published May 16th in Cell Reports, show that the gene variant, called HLA-B*46:01, encodes a protein that binds to molecules derived from the bacterium that causes leprosy -- a chronic infection of the skin and peripheral nerves. This HLS protein then presents these foreign molecules to the immune system, which destroys the infected cells.
Using an algorithm that predicts binding affinities of HLA molecules to peptides, the researchers found that HLA-B*46:01 is predicted to bind a significantly higher number of peptides derived from Mycobacterium leprae compared with its most closely related parent. But surprisingly, HLA-B*46:01 is predicted to bind equal or lower numbers of peptides derived from Salmonella Enteritidis, HIV-1, or H1N1-influenza as compared to its parents.
The new findings are consistent with epidemiological studies showing that HLA-B*46:01 carriers are protected against a severe, life-threatening form of leprosy but are more susceptible to other infectious diseases, such as malaria, HIV, and SARS coronavirus. Moreover, this gene variant predisposes individuals to autoimmune disorders such as myasthenia gravis and Grave's disease, in addition to a rare type of head and neck cancer.
Source : www.sciencedaily.com      2017/5/21 11:39

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