Integrative analysis associates monocytes with insufficient erythropoiesis during acute Plasmodium cynomolgi malaria in rhesus macaques

Malar J. 2017 Sep 22;16(1):384. doi: 10.1186/s12936-017-2029-z.


Background: Mild to severe anaemia is a common complication of malaria that is caused in part by insufficient erythropoiesis in the bone marrow. This study used systems biology to evaluate the transcriptional and alterations in cell populations in the bone marrow during Plasmodium cynomolgi infection of rhesus macaques (a model of Plasmodium vivax malaria) that may affect erythropoiesis.

Results: An appropriate erythropoietic response did not occur to compensate for anaemia during acute cynomolgi malaria despite an increase in erythropoietin levels. During this period, there were significant perturbations in the bone marrow transcriptome. In contrast, relapses did not induce anaemia and minimal changes in the bone marrow transcriptome were detected. The differentially expressed genes during acute infection were primarily related to ongoing inflammatory responses with significant contributions from Type I and Type II Interferon transcriptional signatures. These were associated with increased frequency of intermediate and non-classical monocytes. Recruitment and/or expansion of these populations was correlated with a decrease in the erythroid progenitor population during acute infection, suggesting that monocyte-associated inflammation may have contributed to anaemia. The decrease in erythroid progenitors was associated with downregulation of genes regulated by GATA1 and GATA2, two master regulators of erythropoiesis, providing a potential molecular basis for these findings.

Conclusions: These data suggest the possibility that malarial anaemia may be driven by monocyte-associated disruption of GATA1/GATA2 function in erythroid progenitors resulting in insufficient erythropoiesis during acute infection.

Keywords: Bone marrow; Erythropoiesis; GATA1; Immune response; Nonhuman primates; Plasmodium cynomolgi; Plasmodium vivax; Relapse; Systems biology; Transcriptomics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone Marrow / parasitology
  • Bone Marrow / physiopathology*
  • Erythropoiesis / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Malaria / parasitology
  • Malaria / physiopathology*
  • Malaria, Vivax / parasitology
  • Malaria, Vivax / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Models, Animal
  • Monocytes / immunology*
  • Monocytes / parasitology
  • Plasmodium cynomolgi / physiology*

Supplementary concepts

  • Acute malaria