The HFE genotype and a formulated diet controlling for iron status attenuate experimental cerebral malaria in mice

Dominique F. Leitner, Jose Stoute, Mary Landmesser, Elizabeth Neely, James Connor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Plasmodium falciparum infects approximately 500. million individuals each year. A small but significant number of infections lead to complications such as cerebral malaria. Cerebral malaria is associated with myelin damage and neurological deficits in survivors, and iron status is thought to impact the outcome of infection. We evaluated whether a mouse model of experimental cerebral malaria with Plasmodium berghei ANKA strain was altered by dietary iron deficiency or genetic iron overload (H67D HFE). We found that H67D mice had increased survival over H67H (wild type) mice. Moreover, a specifically designed formulation diet increased survival regardless of whether the diet was iron deficient or iron adequate. To determine potential mechanisms underlying demyelination in experimental cerebral malaria, we measured Semaphorin4A (Sema4A) protein levels in the brain because we found it is cytotoxic to oligodendrocytes. Sema4A was increased in wild type mice that developed experimental cerebral malaria while consuming standard rodent chow, consistent with a decrease in myelin basic protein, an indicator of myelin integrity. The brains of iron deficient and H67D mice had lower levels of Sema4A. Myelin basic protein was decreased in brains of mice fed the iron deficient diet as has been previously reported. We also examined erythropoietin, which is under consideration for treatment of cerebral malaria, and IL-6, which is known to increase during infection. We found that plasma erythropoietin was elevated and IL-6 was low in H67D mice and in the mice fed the formulation diets. These data reveal a paradigm-shifting concept that maintaining iron status may not increase the mortality associated with malaria and provide a dietary strategy for further examination. Moreover, the data provide clues for exploring the mechanism to limit the co-morbidity associated with experimental cerebral malaria that appears to include decreased Sema4A in brain as well as elevated erythropoietin and lower IL-6 in plasma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)797-808
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal for Parasitology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Oct 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Parasitology
  • Infectious Diseases


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