Iron-regulatory genes are associated with Neuroimaging measures in HIV infection.

Fennema-Notestine C, Thornton-Wells TA, Hulgan T, Letendre S, Ellis RJ, Franklin DR, Anderson AM, Heaton RK, Bloss CS, Grant I, Kallianpur AR, CHARTER Study Group
Brain Imaging Behav. 2019

PMID: 31273671 · PMCID: PMC6940558 · DOI:10.1007/s11682-019-00153-0

The pathogenesis of HIV-associated neurocognitive impairment (NCI) may involve iron dysregulation. In 243 HIV-seropositive adults without severe comorbidities, we therefore genotyped 250 variants in 20 iron-related genes and evaluated their associations with magnetic resonance imaging measures of brain structure and metabolites, including measures previously linked to NCI. Multivariable regression analyses examined associations between genetic variants and neuroimaging measures, adjusting for relevant covariates and multiple testing. Exploratory analyses stratified by NCI (Global Deficit Score ≥ 0.5 vs. <0.5), virus detectability in plasma, and comorbidity levels were also performed. Of 27 variants (in 12 iron-regulatory genes) associated with neuroimaging measures after correction for the 37 haplotype blocks represented, 3 variants survived additional correction for the 21 neuroimaging measures evaluated and demonstrated biologically plausible associations. SLC11A1 rs7576974_T was significantly associated with higher frontal gray matter N-acetylaspartate (p = 3.62e). Among individuals with detectable plasma virus, TFRC rs17091382_A was associated with smaller subcortical gray matter volume (p = 3.23e), and CP rs4974389_A (p = 3.52e) was associated with higher basal ganglia Choline in persons with mild comorbidities. Two other strong associations were observed for variants in SLC40A1 and ACO2 but were not robust due to low minor-allele frequencies in the study sample. Variants in iron metabolism and transport genes are associated with structural and metabolite neuroimaging measures in HIV-seropositive adults, regardless of virus suppression on antiretroviral therapy. These variants may confer susceptibility to HIV-related brain injury and NCI. Further studies are needed to determine the specificity of these findings to HIV infection and explore potential underlying mechanisms.

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