Leprosy has long been thought to have a strong genetic component, and so far, only positional cloning and genomewide association studies have been used to study the genetic susceptibility to leprosy,while whole exome sequencing (WES) approach has not yet been applied. In this study, we used WES approach on four leprosy patients and four healthy control relatives from two leprosy families. We found three new susceptible loci of leprosy, one in GAL3ST4 and two in CHGB. We went on to validate the findings of WES using 151 leprosy cases and 226 healthy controls by Sanger sequencing. Stratified by gender, GAL3ST4 was found to be the susceptible gene only for the female population, and CHGB48 and CHGB23 were susceptibile to leprosy for the male population, respectively). Moreover, the gene expression levels of the three susceptible loci were measured by real-time PCR after the stimulation by M. leprae antigens in the PBMC (peripheral blood mononuclear cells) of 69 healthy people. The results showed that the female subjects with high frequent genotype in GAL3ST4 had a fivefold elevated expression. We suggest the polymorphisms in GAL3ST4 in different population are associated with increased risk of leprosy.
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