Autoimmunity to phosphatidylserine and anemia in African Trypanosome infections

Juan Rivera-Correa, Joseph Verdi, Julian Sherman, Jeremy Sternberg, Jayne Raper, Ana Rodriguez

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7 Citations (Scopus)
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Anemia caused by trypanosome infection is poorly understood. Autoimmunity during Trypanosoma brucei infection was proposed to have a role during anemia, but the mechanisms involved during this pathology have not been elucidated. In mouse models and human patients infected with malaria parasites, atypical B-cells promote anemia through the secretion of autoimmune anti-phosphatidylserine (anti-PS) antibodies that bind to uninfected erythrocytes and facilitate their clearance. Using mouse models of two trypanosome infections, Trypanosoma brucei and Trypanosoma cruzi, we assessed levels of autoantibodies and anemia. Our results indicate that acute T. brucei infection, but not T. cruzi, leads to early increased levels of plasma autoantibodies against different auto antigens tested (PS, DNA and erythrocyte lysate) and expansion of atypical B cells (ABCs) that secrete these autoantibodies. In vitro studies confirmed that a lysate of T. brucei, but not T. cruzi, could directly promote the expansion of these ABCs. PS exposure on erythrocyte plasma membrane seems to be an important contributor to anemia by delaying erythrocyte recovery since treatment with an agent that prevents binding to it (Annexin V) ameliorated anemia in T. brucei-infected mice. Analysis of the plasma of patients with human African trypanosomiasis (HAT) revealed high levels of anti-PS antibodies that correlated with anemia. Altogether these results suggest a relation between autoimmunity against PS and anemia in both mice and patients infected with T. brucei.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0009814
Number of pages18
JournalPLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases
Issue number9
Early online date29 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - 29 Sept 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding: This work was supported in part by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) institutional training grants 5T32AI100853-03 and 5T32AI007180 to J.R.C. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.


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