Molecular basis of reduced LAIR1 expression in childhood severe malarial anaemia: implications for leukocyte signalling
Leukocyte-associated immunoglobulin like receptor-1 (LAIR1) is a transmembrane inhibitory receptor that influences susceptibility to a myriad of inflammatory diseases. Our recent investigations of severe malarial anaemia (SMA) pathogenesis in Kenyan children discovered that novel LAIR1 genetic variants which were associated with decreased LAIR1 transcripts enhanced the longitudinal risk of SMA and all-cause mortality.
To characterize the molecular mechanism(s) responsible for altered LAIR1 signalling in severe malaria, we determined LAIR1 transcripts and protein, sLAIR1, sLAIR2, and complement component 1q (C1q) in children with malarial anaemia, followed by a series of in vitro experiments investigating the LAIR1 signalling cascade.
Kenyan children with SMA had elevated circulating levels of soluble LAIR1 (sLAIR1) relative to non-SMA (1.69-fold P < .0001). The LAIR1 antagonist, sLAIR2, was also elevated in the circulation of children with SMA (1.59 fold-change, P < .0001). There was a positive correlation between sLAIR1 and sLAIR2 (ρ = 0.741, P < .0001). Conversely, circulating levels of complement component 1q (C1q), a LAIR1 natural ligand, were lower in SMA (-1.21-fold P = .048). These in vivo findings suggest that reduced membrane-bound LAIR1 expression in SMA is associated with elevated production of sLAIR1, sLAIR2 (antagonist), and limited C1q (agonist) availability. Since reduced LAIR1 transcripts in SMA were associated with increased acquisition of haemozoin (PfHz) by monocytes (P = .028), we explored the relationship between acquisition of intraleukocytic PfHz, LAIR1 expression, and subsequent impacts on leukocyte signalling in cultured PBMCs from malaria-naïve donors stimulated with physiological concentrations of PfHz (10 μg/mL). Phagocytosis of PfHz reduced LAIR1 transcript and protein expression in a time-dependent manner (P < .050), and inhibited LAIR1 signalling through decreased phosphorylation of LAIR1 (P < .0001) and SH2-domain containing phosphatase-1 (SHP-1) (P < .001). This process was associated with NF-κB activation (P < .0001) and enhanced production of IL-6, IL-1β, and TNF-α (all P < .0001).
Collectively, these findings demonstrate that SMA is characterized by reduced LAIR1 transmembrane expression, reduced C1q, and enhanced production of sLAIR1 and sLAIR2, molecular events which can promote enhanced production of cytokines that contribute to the pathogenesis of SMA. These investigations are important for discovering immune checkpoints that could be future targets of immunotherapy to improve disease outcomes.