Open Access Open Badges Research article

Influence of KIR genes and their HLA ligands in the pathogenesis of leprosy in a hyperendemic population of Rondonópolis, Southern Brazil

Luciana Ribeiro Jarduli1, Hugo Vicentin Alves1, Fabiana Covolo de Souza-Santana2, Elaine Valim Camarinha Marcos2, Ana Carla Pereira2, Ida Maria Foschiani Dias-Baptista2, Vinícius Medeiros Fava3, Marcelo Távora Mira3, Milton Ozório Moraes4, Marcos da Cunha Lopes Virmond2 and Jeane Eliete Laguila Visentainer1*

Author Affiliations

1 Laboratório de Imunogenética, Departamento de Ciências Básicas da Saúde, Universidade Estadual de Maringá, Av. Colombo, 5790, Maringá, PR CEP 87020-900, Brazil

2 Instituto Lauro de Souza Lima, Bauru, SP, Brazil

3 Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Paraná, Curitiba, PR, Brazil

4 Instituto Oswaldo Cruz, FIOCRUZ, Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2014, 14:438  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-14-438

Published: 12 August 2014



The objective of this study was to investigate the association between KIR genes and the immunopathogenesis of leprosy.


The types of KIR and HLA genes were evaluated by PCR-SSOP-Luminex in 408 patients with leprosy and 413 healthy individuals. Statistical analysis was performed using the Chi-square or Fisher’s exact test and stepwise multivariate analysis.


There was a higher frequency of activating KIR genes (KIR2DS1, 2DS2 and 3DS1) together with their HLA ligands in the tuberculoid (TT) group as compared to the lepromatous leprosy (LL) group. KIR2DL2/2DL2-C1 was more frequent in the patient, TT and LL groups than in the control group. Borderline patients presented a higher frequency of inhibitory pairs when compared to the control group, and a higher frequency of activating pairs as compared to the LL group. Multivariate analysis confirmed the associations and demonstrated that being a female is a protective factor against the development of the disease per se and the more severe clinical form.


This study showed that activating and inhibitory KIR genes may influence the development of leprosy – in particular, activating genes may protect against the more aggressive form of the disease – thereby demonstrating the role of NK cells in the immunopathology of the disease.

Leprosy; KIR genes; NK cells