The FCGR2A — Arg131 variant is no major mortality factor in the elderly — evidence from a German centenarian study

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The functional single nucleotide polymorphism rs1801274 in the FCGR2A gene (His131Arg) influences the efficiency of hIgG2 binding, the main isotype produced in response to encapsulated bacteria like Streptococcus pneumoniae and Haemophilus influenzae. In contrast to the receptor with the His131 allele, FcγRIIa-Arg131 binds hIgG2 poorly and carriers of this variant have been shown to be much more susceptible to succumb to bacterial pneumonia or meningitis. As bacteraemic pneumonia is one of the leading causes of death in elderly individuals, we hypothesized that the Arg131 variant could be a major mortality factor in the old. We analysed the FCGR2A-His131Arg polymorphism in a group of 408 German centenarians and two samples of younger Germans aged 60–75 and 18–49 years, respectively. No statistically significant differences were observed between the three age groups, neither at the allele nor at the genotype level. Apparently, the ability to reach old age is largely unaffected by the genetically determined efficacy of the FCGR2A-based immune response. However, the severely reduced ability of FCGR2A-131Arg carriers to eliminate encapsulated bacteria must apparently be compensated by an alternative mechanism, possibly involving other genetic survival factors.

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