London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine Malaria Centre

New paper published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation

21 September 2016
Malaria Centre member has paper featured in the New York Times.

Sam Wassmer, Senior Lecturer at LSHTM, has published a new paper that has been featured in the New York Times.

The New York Times article is available here



Angiotensin receptors and β-catenin regulate brain endothelial integrity in malaria.

Gallego-Delgado J, Basu-Roy U, Ty M, Alique M, Fernandez-Arias C, Movila A, Gomes P, Weinstock A, Xu W, Edagha I, Wassmer SC, Walther T, Ruiz-Ortega M, Rodriguez A.
J Clin Invest. 2016 Sep 19. pii: 87306. doi: 10.1172/JCI87306. [Epub ahead of print]

Abstract: Cerebral malaria is characterized by cytoadhesion of Plasmodium falciparum-infected red blood cells (Pf-iRBCs) to endothelial cells in the brain, disruption of the blood-brain barrier, and cerebral microhemorrhages. No available antimalarial drugs specifically target the endothelial disruptions underlying this complication, which is responsible for the majority of malaria-associated deaths. Here, we have demonstrated that ruptured Pf-iRBCs induce activation of β-catenin, leading to disruption of inter-endothelial cell junctions in human brain microvascular endothelial cells (HBMECs). Inhibition of β-catenin-induced TCF/LEF transcription in the nucleus of HBMECs prevented the disruption of endothelial junctions, confirming that β-catenin is a key mediator of P. falciparum adverse effects on endothelial integrity. Blockade of the angiotensin II type 1 receptor (AT1) or stimulation of the type 2 receptor (AT2) abrogated Pf-iRBC-induced activation of β-catenin and prevented the disruption of HBMEC monolayers. In a mouse model of cerebral malaria, modulation of angiotensin II receptors produced similar effects, leading to protection against cerebral malaria, reduced cerebral hemorrhages, and increased survival. In contrast, AT2-deficient mice were more susceptible to cerebral malaria. The interrelation of the β-catenin and the angiotensin II signaling pathways opens immediate host-targeted therapeutic possibilities for cerebral malaria and other diseases in which brain endothelial integrity is compromised.