FAS encodes for CD95, a molecule critically involved in the programmed death of some white blood cells. This candidate gene study, including more than 6,000 child subjects, details how a single nucleotide variant of FAS predisposes its carriers to a higher number of immune cells prone to suicide. These findings indicate that a genetic predisposition to an increased expression of CD95 may help to protect from severe malaria, possibly by rendering a type of white blood cell more susceptible to programmed cell death.
Kathrin Schuldt, co-author, said, “We believe that our study will help to unravel the mechanisms causing the fatal forms of malaria.”
Schuldt et al. A -436C>A polymorphism in the human FAS gene promoter associated with severe childhood malaria. PLoS Genet. 2011 May;7(5):e1002066. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1002066. Epub 2011 May 19.