H3Africa Publications for 2020


  1. The Determinants of the Human Milk Metabolome and Its Role in Infant Health. Human milk is needed for optimal growth as it satisfies both the nutritional and biological needs of an infant. The established relationship between breastfeeding and an infant’s health is attributable to the nutritional and non-nutritional, functional components of human milk including metabolites such as the lipids, amino acids, biogenic amines and carbohydrates. These components have diverse roles, including protecting the infant against infections and guiding the development of the infant’s immature immune system. In this review, we provide an in-depth and updated insight into the immune modulatory and anti-infective role of human milk metabolites and their effects on infant health and development. We also review the literature on potential determinants of the human milk metabolome, including maternal infectious diseases such as human immunodeficiency virus and mastitis. DOI: 10.3390/metabo10020077 PMID: 32093351
  2. Current Affairs of Microbial Genome-Wide Association Studies: Approaches, Bottlenecks and Analytical Pitfalls.  Microbial genome-wide association studies (mGWAS) are a new and exciting research field that is adapting human GWAS methods to understand how variations in microbial genomes affect host or pathogen phenotypes, such as drug resistance, virulence, host specificity and prognosis. Several computational tools and methods have been developed or adapted from human GWAS to facilitate the discovery of novel mutations and structural variations that are associated with the phenotypes of interest. However, no comprehensive, end-to-end, user-friendly tool is currently available. The development of a broadly applicable pipeline presents a real opportunity among computational biologists. Here, (i) we review the prominent and promising tools, (ii) discuss analytical pitfalls and bottlenecks in mGWAS, (iii) provide insights into the selection of appropriate tools, (iv) highlight the gaps that still need to be filled and how users and developers can work together to overcome these bottlenecks. Use of mGWAS research can inform drug repositioning decisions as well as accelerate the discovery and development of more effective vaccines and antimicrobials for pressing infectious diseases of global health significance, such as HIV, TB, influenza, and malaria. DOI: 10.3389/fmicb.2019.03119 PMCID: PMC7002396 PMID: 32082269
  3. MECP2 duplication syndrome in a patient from Cameroon. MECP2 duplication syndrome (MDS; OMIM 300260) is an X-linked neurodevelopmental disorder caused by nonrecurrent duplications of the Xq28 region involving the gene methyl-CpG-binding protein 2 (MECP2; OMIM 300005). The core phenotype of affected individuals includes infantile hypotonia, severe intellectual disability, very poor-to-absent speech, progressive spasticity, seizures, and recurrent infections. The condition is 100% penetrant in males, with observed variability in phenotypic expression within and between families. Features of MDS in individuals of African descent are not well known. Here, we describe a male patient from Cameroon, with MDS caused by an inherited 610 kb microduplication of Xq28 encompassing the genes MECP2, IRAK1, L1CAM, and SLC6A8. This report supplements the public data on MDS and contributes by highlighting the phenotype of this condition in affected individuals of African descent. DOI: 10.1002/ajmg.a.61510 PMID: 32052928
  4. Brain microRNAs associated with late-life depressive symptoms are also associated with cognitive trajectory and dementia. Late-life depression is associated with an increased risk for dementia but we have limited knowledge of the molecular mechanisms underlying this association. Here we investigated whether brain microRNAs, important posttranscriptional regulators of gene expression, contribute to this association. Late-life depressive symptoms were assessed annually in 300 participants of the Religious Orders Study and Rush Memory and Aging Project for a mean of 7 years. Participants underwent annual cognitive testing, clinical assessment of cognitive status, and uniform neuropathologic examination after death. microRNAs were profiled from the prefrontal cortex using NanoString platform in the discovery cohort and small RNA sequencing in the replication cohort. A global microRNA association study of late-life depressive symptoms was performed using linear mixed model adjusting for the potential confounding factors. Four brain microRNAs were associated with late-life depressive symptoms at adjusted p < 0.05: miR-484, miR-26b-5p, miR-30d-5p, and miR-197-3p. Lower expression levels of these miRNAs were associated having greater depressive symptoms. Furthermore, lower levels of miR-484 and miR-197-3p were associated with faster decline of cognition over time. Moreover, lower miR-484 level was associated with higher probability of having Alzheimer’s dementia. Importantly, the associations between miR-484 and depressive symptoms and Alzheimer’s dementia, respectively, were replicated in an independent cohort. Lastly, the predicted targets of miR-484 were enriched in a brain protein co-expression module involving synaptic transmission and regulation of synaptic plasticity. This study identified four brain microRNAs associated with late-life depressive symptoms assessed longitudinally. In addition, we found a molecular connection between late-life depression and dementia through miR-484. DOI: 10.1038/s41525-019-0113-8 PMCID: PMC7004995 PMID: 32047652
  5. Integrated Computational Approaches and Tools forAllosteric Drug Discovery. Understanding molecular mechanisms underlying the complexity of allosteric regulationin proteins has attracted considerable attention in drug discovery due to the benefits and versatilityof allosteric modulators in providing desirable selectivity against protein targets while minimizingtoxicity and other side effects. The proliferation of novel computational approaches for predictingligand-protein interactions and binding using dynamic and network-centric perspectives has ledto new insights into allosteric mechanisms and facilitated computer-based discovery of allostericdrugs. Although no absolute method of experimental and in silico allosteric drug/site discoveryexists, current methods are still being improved. As such, the critical analysis and integration ofestablished approaches into robust, reproducible, and customizable computational pipelines withexperimental feedback could make allosteric drug discovery more efficient and reliable. In this article,we review computational approaches for allosteric drug discovery and discuss how these tools can beutilized to develop consensus workflows for in silico identification of allosteric sites and modulatorswith some applications to pathogen resistance and precision medicine. The emerging realization thatallosteric modulators can exploit distinct regulatory mechanisms and can provide access to targetedmodulation of protein activities could open opportunities for probing biological processes and insilico design of drug combinations with improved therapeutic indices and a broad range of activities. DOI: 10.3390/ijms21030847 PMID: 32013012
  6. Cascade Testing for Fragile X Syndrome in a Rural Setting in Cameroon (Sub-Saharan Africa)Fragile X Syndrome (FXS), an X-linked dominant monogenic condition, is the main genetic cause of intellectual disability (ID) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). FXS is associated with an expansion of CGG repeat sequence in the Fragile X Mental Retardation gene 1 (FMR1) on chromosome X. Following a neuropediatric assessment of two male siblings who presented with signs of FXS that was confirmed with molecular testing, we provided cascade counselling and testing to the extended family. A total of 46 individuals were tested for FXS; among them, 58.70% (n = 27) were females. The mean age was 9.4 (±5) years for children and 45.9 (±15.9) years for adults. Pedigree analysis suggested that the founder of these families was likely a normal transmitting male. Four out of 19 males with clinical ID were confirmed to have a full mutation for FXS, while 14/27 females had a pathologic CGG expansion (>56 CGG repeats) on one of their X chromosomes. Two women with premature menopause were confirmed of being carriers of premutation (91 and 101 CGG repeats). We also identified maternal alleles (91 and 126 CGG repeats) which expanded to a full mutation in their offspring (>200 CGG repeats). This study is a rare report on FXS from Africa and illustrates the case scenario of implementing genetic medicine for a neurogenetic condition in a rural setting. DOI: 10.3390/genes11020136 PMID: 32012997
  7. A novel variant in the spatacsin gene causing SPG11 in a Malian family. DOI: 10.1016/j.jns.2020.116675 PMID: 32007754
  8. Genetics of schizophrenia in the South African XhosaAfrica, the ancestral home of all modern humans, is the most informative continent for understanding the human genome and its contribution to complex disease. To better understand the genetics of schizophrenia, we studied the illness in the Xhosa population of South Africa, recruiting 909 cases and 917 age-, gender-, and residence-matched controls. Individuals with schizophrenia were significantly more likely than controls to harbor private, severely damaging mutations in genes that are critical to synaptic function, including neural circuitry mediated by the neurotransmitters glutamine, γ-aminobutyric acid, and dopamine. Schizophrenia is genetically highly heterogeneous, involving severe ultrarare mutations in genes that are critical to synaptic plasticity. The depth of genetic variation in Africa revealed this relationship with a moderate sample size and informed our understanding of the genetics of schizophrenia worldwide. DOI: 10.1126/science.aay8833 PMID: 32001654
  9. Association of single nucleotide polymorphisms with dyslipidemia in antiretroviral exposed HIV patients in a Ghanaian population: A case-control study. Dyslipidemia is a potential complication of long-term usage of antiretroviral therapy (ART) and also known to be associated with genetic factors. The host genetic variants associated with dyslipidemia in HIV patients on ART in Ghana have not been fully explored. The study constituted a total of 289 HIV-infected patients on stable ART for at least a year. Fasting blood was collected into EDTA tube for lipids measurement. Lipid profiles were used to define dyslipidemia based on the NCEP-ATP III criteria. HIV-infected subjects were categorized into two groups; those with dyslipidemia (cases) (n = 90; 31.1%) and without dyslipidemia (controls)(n = 199; 68.9%). Four candidate single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) genes (ABCA1-rs2066714, LDLR-rs6511720, APOA5-rs662799 and DSCAML1-rs10892151) were determined. Genotyping was performed on isolated genomic DNA of study participants using PCR followed by a multiplex ligation detection reaction (LDR). The percentage of the population who had the rare homozygote alleles for rs6511720 (T/T), rs2066714 (G/G), rs10892151 (T/T) and rs662799 (G/G) among case subjects were 5.5%, 14.4%, 6.6% and 10.0% whiles 2.0% 9.1%, 6.5% and 4.0% were observed among control subjects. There were statistically significant differences in the genotypic prevalence of APOA5 (p = 0.0357) and LDLR polymorphisms (p = 0.0387) between case and control subjects. Compared to the AA genotype of the APOA5 polymorphisms, individuals with the rare homozygote genotype [aOR = 2.38, 95%CI(1.06-6.54), p = 0.004] were significantly associated with an increased likelihood of developing dyslipidemia after controlling for age, gender, treatment duration, CD4 counts and BMI. Moreover, individuals with the rare homozygous genotype of ABCA1 (G/G) [aOR = 10.7(1.3-88.7), p = 0.0280] and LDLR (rs6511720) G>T [aOR = 61.2(7.6-493.4), p<0.0001) were more likely to have high levels of total cholesterol levels. Our data accentuate the presence of SNPs in four candidate genes and their association with dyslipidemia among HIV patients exposed to ART in the Ghanaian population, especially variants in APOA5-rs662799 and LDLR rs6511720 respectively. These findings provide baseline information that necessitates a pre-symptomatic strategy for monitoring dyslipidemia in ART-treated HIV patients. There is a need for longitudinal studies to validate a comprehensive number of SNPs and their associations with dyslipidemia. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0227779 PMCID: PMC6957303 PMID: 31929604