Gene expression profile in cases of infectious death in infancy

Pediatr Res. 2021 Feb;89(3):483-487. doi: 10.1038/s41390-020-0896-4. Epub 2020 Apr 16.


Background: Genetic predispositions in cases suffering sudden unexpected infant death have been a research focus worldwide during the past decade. Despite large efforts, there is still uncertainty concerning the molecular pathogenesis of these deaths. With genetic technology in constant development, the possibility of an alternative approach into this research field has become available, like mRNA expression studies.

Methods: In this study, we investigated mRNA gene expression in 14 cases who died suddenly and unexpectedly from infection without a history of severe illness prior to death. The control group included eight accidents, two cases of natural death, one undetermined, one case of medical malpractice, and two homicides. The study included tissue from liver, heart, and brain using Illumina whole-genome gene expression assay.

Results: From the array, 19 genes showed altered expression in the infectious deaths compared to controls. Tissue from the heart showed 15 genes with altered mRNA expression compared to the control group.

Conclusions: Downregulation of KCNE5 in heart tissue from cases of infectious death was of particular interest. Variants of KCNE5 are associated with Brugada syndrome and sudden death and could be responsible for the fatal outcome in the group of infectious death.

Impact: KCNE5 is downregulated in tissue from the heart in cases of infectious death in infancy. This study provides knowledge about the gene expression profile in cases of infectious death. Variants of a gene known to give increased risk of cardiac arrhythmia is downregulated in cases of infectious death in infancy. The results could give us better knowledge as to why some infants do not survive an infection. This study provides a candidate gene for future studies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't