Polymorphic variants within the human natural resistance-associated macrophage protein-1 (NRAMP1, also known as SLC11A1) gene have been shown to impact on susceptibility to tuberculosis in different human populations. In the mouse, Nramp1 is expressed at the macrophage phagosomal membrane and its activity can be assayed by the relative acquisition of mannose 6-phosphate receptor (M6PR) in Salmonella-containing vacuoles. Based on this M6PR recruitment assay, we have now developed an assay in primary human macrophages to test the function of human NRAMP1 gene variants. First, we established that M6PR acquisition was significantly higher (P=0.002) in human U-937 monocytic cell lines transfected with NRAMP1 as compared to untransfected U-937 cells. Second, the M6PR assay was shown to be highly reproducible for NRAMP1 activity in monocyte-derived macrophages (MDM) from healthy volunteers. Finally, the assay was investigated in MDM from pediatric tuberculosis patients and significantly lower NRAMP1 activity was detected in MDM from individuals homozygous for the NRAMP1-274 high-risk allele (CC genotype) in comparison to heterozygous individuals (CT genotype; P=0.013). The present study describes both an assay for human NRAMP1 functional activity and concomitant evidence for reduced NRAMP1 function in the common genetic variant shown to be associated with tuberculosis susceptibility in pediatric patients.
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