Hindimebio (Índia)

Study Maps Immune System Genes Involved in Resistance to SARS-CoV-2

Publicado em 29 setembro 2021

In a research reported on Frontiers in Immunology, Brazilian researchers have taken the primary steps towards understanding why some individuals are naturally proof against an infection by the novel coronavirus.

The researchers analyzed genetic materials from 86 discordant {couples} in the sense that solely the spouse or husband was contaminated by SARS-CoV-2 though each had been uncovered to the virus. The outcomes recommend that sure genetic variants discovered extra ceaselessly in the resistant topics are related to extra environment friendly activation of protection cells often known as pure killers (NKs). This sort of white blood cell is a part of the innate immune response, the primary barrier towards viruses and different pathogens. When NKs are appropriately activated, they’re able to acknowledge and destroy contaminated cells, stopping the illness from growing in the organism.

“Our hypothesis is that the genomic variants most frequently found in the susceptible spouse lead to the production of molecules that inhibit activation of NKs. However, this theory has yet to be validated by means of functional studies,” Mayana Zatz, final creator of the paper, advised. Zatz is a professor on the University of São Paulo’s Institute of Biosciences (IB-USP) and principal investigator of the Human Genome and Stem Cell Research Center (HUG-CELL), one among FAPESP’s Research, Innovation and Dissemination Centers (RIDCs).

After asserting to the press that they had been recruiting volunteers for the mission in mid-2020, the IB-USP scientists had been contacted by some 1,000 {couples} with equally intriguing tales. For instance, a person aged greater than 70 needed to be hospitalized for remedy of problems from COVID-19, whereas his spouse, who was about the identical age, and his mother-in-law, aged 98 and residing in the identical home, displayed no indicators of an infection. Another curious case was that of a 100-year-old man who examined damaging for the virus regardless of having been routinely in contact along with his 90-year-old spouse, who was contaminated.

“We thought cases like these were rare and were surprised to get so many reports. We selected 100 couples with comparable characteristics, including age and genetic ancestry, and took blood samples for detailed analysis,” Zatz mentioned.

Couples had been chosen and materials was collected by Mateus Vidigal, with the help of a postdoctoral scholarship from FAPESP

“The first step was a serological test to exclude asymptomatic cases [people who were infected but did not have symptoms] from the sample. That left 86 couples who were genuinely serodiscordant – only one spouse had antibodies against the virus in their blood,” Vidigal mentioned.

While males had been in the bulk in the prone group (53 vs. 33), ladies predominated in the resistant group (57 vs. 29). Vidigal pressured that the research was carried out earlier than novel variants of SARS-CoV-2 thought-about extra transmissible had been detected. “We can’t be sure the findings would be the same for people exposed to P.1, for example,” he mentioned.

Complex inheritance

According to Zatz, the truth that resistance to SARS-CoV-2 is a comparatively frequent trait in the inhabitants – not like resistance to HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, for instance – factors to a fancy genetic inheritance in which many genes are involved.

“That means that to find something significant when we look at the genome as a whole we would need to have a huge sample with more than 20,000 volunteers. So we decided to focus on two large groups of genes associated with immune response: the main histocompatibility complex [MHC] and the leukocyte receptor complex [LRC],” Zatz defined. “MHC genes determine whether two individuals are compatible in the case of a transplant, for example.”

Even with this filter, the duty was removed from trivial. Some of the genes in the MHC and LRC have greater than 7,000 polymorphisms (completely different kinds). “An example of polymorphisms is the different blood types. There are four genetic variants in the ABO system: A, B, AB, and O. In the case of MHC and LRC, some genes have thousands of variants,” she mentioned.

To help them in this daunting activity, the IB-USP group established a collaboration with Erick Castelli, a researcher at São Paulo State University’s Botucatu Medical School (FMB-UNESP). Computational strategies developed just lately by Castelli with FAPESP’s help facilitated the research of MHC and LRC genes.

“Imagine you’re trying to assemble a jigsaw puzzle [the genome] with only one reference but many similar pieces and thousands of possibilities for each piece. The differences between them are very subtle so that it’s impossible to know where each one fits. The algorithm decides where to put each piece on the basis of an analysis of thousands of sequences that have been described. The method enables us to map the genome in great detail, to infer the sequence for each chromosome, and to predict which protein will be encoded by each gene,” Castelli advised Agência FAPESP.

Analyzing the MHC, they discovered that variants of the genes MICA and MICB appeared to affect resistance to SARS-CoV-2. According to Castelli, their expression usually will increase when cells come beneath some type of stress, and this results in the manufacturing of molecules that bind to NK receptors, signaling that one thing is incorrect with the cells in query. 

“In the case of MICA, the most frequent polymorphism in infected subjects appears to increase production of the protein encoded by this gene, possibly in soluble form, inhibiting activation of NK cells,” he mentioned. “In the case of MICB, a variant associated with reduced expression of the messenger RNA that encodes the NK-activating protein was 2.5 times more frequent among susceptible subjects. Both pathways, therefore, lead to lower activation of this immune system barrier.”

In the LRC, the evaluation recognized variants of curiosity in the genes LILRB1 and LILRB2. “In infected subjects, our analysis detected a fivefold increase in a variant of LILRB1 that appears to lead to augmented expression of receptors that inhibit the action of NK cells,” Castelli mentioned.

Hypotheses relating to the position of every polymorphism in resistance or susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 had been labored out in partnership with researchers at Heart Institute (INCOR) of the University of São Paulo’s Medical School (FM-USP) led by Edécio Cunha Neto. 

“Generally speaking, we hypothesize that susceptible people have variants that result in a weaker response by NK cells, while in resistant people this response is more robust,” Cunha Neto mentioned. “Several tests can be performed to verify this hypothesis. One would involve incubating SARS-CoV-2 with peripheral blood cells from susceptible and resistant individuals, and observing NK activation in each case.”

Even if the findings are confirmed, he added, different innate immune mechanisms should act in parallel to find out resistance to the virus. “One of them is certainly the capacity of defense cells to rapidly produce interferons [a protein class with a key role in anti-viral defenses],” he mentioned.

The analysis was supported by FAPESP through six tasks: 13/08028-1, 14/50931-3, 19/19998-8, 20/09702-1, 13/17084-2, and 17/19223-0.


About São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP)

The São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) is a public establishment with the mission of supporting scientific analysis in all fields of data by awarding scholarships, fellowships and grants to investigators linked with increased schooling and analysis establishments in the State of São Paulo, Brazil. FAPESP is conscious that the easiest analysis can solely be achieved by working with the perfect researchers internationally. Therefore, it has established partnerships with funding companies, increased schooling, personal corporations, and analysis organizations in different nations identified for the standard of their analysis and has been encouraging scientists funded by its grants to additional develop their worldwide collaboration. You can be taught extra about FAPESP at and go to FAPESP information company at to hold up to date with the most recent scientific breakthroughs FAPESP helps obtain via its many packages, awards and analysis facilities. You may subscribe to FAPESP information company at


Frontiers in Immunology

Subject of Research


Article Title

MHC Variants Associated With Symptomatic Versus Asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 Infection in Highly Exposed Individuals

Article Publication Date


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