Heterozygosity for the S180L variant of MAL/TIRAP, a gene expressing an adaptor protein in the Toll-like receptor pathway, is associated with lower risk of developing chronic Chagas cardiomyopathy

J Infect Dis. 2009 Jun 15;199(12):1838-45. doi: 10.1086/599212.


Background: Chagas disease is caused by the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma cruzi. Among T. cruzi-infected individuals, only a subgroup develops severe chronic Chagas cardiomyopathy (CCC); the majority remain asymptomatic. T. cruzi displays numerous ligands for the Toll-like receptors (TLRs), which are an important component of innate immunity that lead to the transcription of proinflammatory cytokines by nuclear factor-kappaB. Because proinflammatory cytokines play an important role in CCC, we hypothesized that single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the genes that encode proteins in the TLR pathway could explain differential susceptibility to CCC among T. cruzi-infected individuals.

Methods: For 169 patients with CCC and 76 T. cruzi-infected, asymptomatic individuals, we analyzed SNPs by use of polymerase chain reaction-restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis for the genes TLR1, TLR2, TLR4, TLR5, TLR9, and MAL/TIRAP, which encodes an adaptor protein.

Results: Heterozygous carriers of the MAL/TIRAP variant S180L were more prevalent in the asymptomatic group (24 [32%] of 76 subjects) than in the CCC group (21 [12%] of 169) (chi2=12.6; P=.0004 [adjusted P (Pc)=.0084]; odds ratio [OR], 0.31 [95% confidence interval {CI}, 0.16-0.60]). Subgroup analysis showed a stronger association when asymptomatic patients were compared with patients who had severe CCC (i.e., patients with left-ventricular ejection fraction<or=40%) (chi2=11.3; P=.0008 [Pc=.017]; OR, 0.22 [95% CI, 0.09-0.56]) than when asymptomatic patients were compared with patients who had mild CCC (i.e., patients with left-ventricular ejection fraction>40%) (chi2=7.7; P=.005 [Pc=.11]; OR, 0.33 [95% CI, 0.15-0.73]).

Conclusion: T. cruzi-infected individuals who are heterozygous for the MAL/TIRAP S180L variant that leads to a decrease in signal transduction upon ligation of TLR2 or TLR4 to their respective ligand may have a lower risk of developing CCC.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Chagas Cardiomyopathy / genetics*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Gene Expression Regulation / physiology
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • Genotype
  • Heterozygote*
  • Humans
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / genetics*
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / metabolism
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide*
  • Receptors, Interleukin-1 / genetics*
  • Receptors, Interleukin-1 / metabolism
  • Risk Factors
  • Signal Transduction


  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Receptors, Interleukin-1
  • TIRAP protein, human