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1.  Role of cAMP Signaling in the Survival and Infectivity of the Protozoan Parasite, Leishmania donovani 
Leishmania donovani, while invading macrophages, encounters striking shift in temperature and pH (from 22°C and pH 7.2 to 37°C and pH 5.5), which act as the key environmental trigger for differentiation, and increases cAMP level and cAMP-mediated responses. For comprehensive understanding of cAMP signaling, we studied the enzymes related to cAMP metabolism. A stage-specific and developmentally regulated isoform of receptor adenylate cyclase (LdRACA) showed to regulate differentiation-coupled induction of cAMP. The soluble acidocalcisomal pyrophosphatase, Ldvsp1, was the major isoform regulating cAMP level in association with LdRACA. A differentially expressed soluble cytosolic cAMP phosphodiesterase (LdPDEA) might be related to infection establishment by shifting trypanothione pool utilization bias toward antioxidant defense. We identified and cloned a functional cAMP-binding effector molecule from L. donovani (a regulatory subunit of cAMP-dependent protein kinase, LdPKAR) that may modulate metacyclogenesis through induction of autophagy. This study reveals the significance of cAMP signaling in parasite survival and infectivity.
PMCID: PMC3200087  PMID: 22091412
2.  The curative effect of fucoidan on visceral leishmaniasis is mediated by activation of MAP kinases through specific protein kinase C isoforms 
Cellular and Molecular Immunology  2014;11(3):263-274.
Fucoidan can cure both antimony-sensitive and antimony-resistant visceral leishmaniasis through immune activation. However, the signaling events underlying this cellular response remain uncharacterized. The present study reveals that fucoidan induces activation of p38 and ERK1/2 and NF-κB DNA binding in both normal and Leishmania donovani-infected macrophages, as revealed by western blotting and electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA), respectively. Pharmacological inhibition of p38, ERK1/2 or the NF-κB pathway markedly attenuated fucoidan-induced pro-inflammatory cytokine synthesis and inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) gene transcription, resulting in a reduction of parasite clearance. To decipher the underlying mechanism of fucoidan-mediated parasite suppression, the expression and functionality of various protein kinase C (PKC) isoforms were evaluated by immunoblotting and enzyme activity assay. Fucoidan elicited an increase in expression and activity of PKC-α, -βI and -βII isoforms in infected macrophages. Functional knockdown of PKC-α and -β resulted in downregulation of p38 and ERK1/2, along with a marked reduction of IL-12 and TNF-α production in fucoidan-treated infected macrophages. Collectively, these results suggest that the curative effect of fucoidan is mediated by PKC-dependent activation of the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK)/NF-κB pathway, which ultimately results in the production of nitric oxide (NO) and disease-resolving pro-inflammatory cytokines.
PMCID: PMC4085487  PMID: 24561457
fucoidan; MAPK; NF-κB; PKC; visceral leishmaniasis
3.  Curative Effect of 18β-Glycyrrhetinic Acid in Experimental Visceral Leishmaniasis Depends on Phosphatase-Dependent Modulation of Cellular MAP Kinases 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(12):e29062.
We earlier showed that 18β-glycyrrhetinic acid (GRA), a pentacyclic triterpenoid from licorice root, could completely cure visceral leishmaniasis in BALB/c mouse model. This was associated with induction of nitric oxide and proinflammatory cytokine production through the up regulation of NF-κB. In the present study we tried to decipher the underlying cellular mechanisms of the curative effect of GRA. Analysis of MAP kinase pathways revealed that GRA caused strong activation of p38 and to a lesser extent, ERK in bone marrow-derived macrophages (BMDM). Almost complete abrogation of GRA-induced cytokine production in presence of specific inhibitors of p38 and ERK1/2 confirmed the involvement of these MAP kinases in GRA-mediated responses. GRA induced mitogen- and stress-activated protein kinase (MSK1) activity in a time-dependent manner suggested that GRA-mediated NF-κB transactivation is mediated by p38, ERK and MSK1 pathway. As kinase/phosphatase balance plays an important role in modulating infection, the effect of GRA on MAPK directed phosphatases (MKP) was studied. GRA markedly reduced the expression and activities of three phosphatases, MKP1, MKP3 and protein phosphatase 2A (PP2A) along with a substantial reduction of p38 and ERK dephosphorylation in infected BMDM. Similarly in the in vivo situation, GRA treatment of L. donovani-infected BALB/c mice caused marked reduction of spleen parasite burden associated with concomitant decrease of individual phosphatase levels. However, activation of kinases also played an important role as the protective effect of GRA was significantly abrogated by pharmacological inhibition of p38 and ERK pathway. Curative effect of GRA may, therefore, be associated with restoration of proper cellular kinase/phosphatase balance, rather than modulation of either kinases or phosphatases.
PMCID: PMC3237588  PMID: 22194991
4.  Immunomodulatory Peptide from Cystatin, a Natural Cysteine Protease Inhibitor, against Leishmaniasis as a Model Macrophage Disease▿  
Cystatin, a natural cysteine protease inhibitor, has strong antileishmanial activity, which is due to its potential to induce nitric oxide (NO) generation from macrophages. Cysteine protease-inhibitory activity and NO-up-regulatory activity correspond to different regions, as revealed by the dissection of cystatin cDNA into nonoverlapping fragments. By using synthetic overlapping peptides, the NO-up-regulatory activity was found to be confined to a 10-mer sequence. In addition to having reasonable inhibitory effects on amastigote multiplication within macrophages (50% inhibitory concentration, 5.2 μg/ml), 97 and 93% suppression, respectively, of liver and spleen parasite burdens was achieved with the 10-mer peptide at a dose of 0.5 mg/kg of body weight/day, given consecutively for 4 days along with a suboptimal dose of gamma interferon in a 45-day mouse model of visceral leishmaniasis. Peptide treatment modulated the levels of cytokine secretion by infected splenocytes, with increased levels of interleukin-12 and tumor necrosis factor alpha and increased inducible NO synthase production, and also resulted in resistance to reinfection. The generation of a natural peptide from cystatin with robust immunomodulatory potential may therefore provide a promising therapeutic agent for macrophage-associated diseases.
PMCID: PMC1855531  PMID: 17339373

Results 1-4 (4)