Infection with Leishmania braziliensis causes cutaneous or mucocutaneous leismaniasis in humans. Toll-like receptor 9 (TLR9) expression has been found in granulomas of lesions in L. braziliensis-infected individuals. L. braziliensis inoculation in mice induces very small lesions that are self-healing, whereas deficiency in the TLR adaptor molecule, MyD88, renders mice susceptible to infection. The TLR involved has not been identified, prompting us to investigate if TLR9 triggering by the parasite contributes to the strong resistance to infection observed in L. braziliensis-inoculated mice. The parasites activated wild-type (WT) dendritic cells (DCs) in vitro but not DCs derived from TLR9−/− mice. TLR9−/− mice inoculated with L. braziliensis exhibited a transient susceptibility characterized by increased lesion size and parasite burden compared to those of WT mice. Surprisingly, elevated levels of gamma interferon (IFN-γ) were measured at the site of infection and in draining lymph node T cells of TLR9−/− mice at the peak of susceptibility, suggesting that unlike observations in vitro, the parasite could induce DC activation leading to the development of Th1 cells in the absence of TLR9 expression. Taken together, these data show that TLR9 signaling is important for the early control of lesion development and parasite burden but is dispensable for the differentiation of Th1 cells secreting IFN-γ, and the high levels of this cytokine are not sufficient to control early parasite replication following L. braziliensis infection.
Programmed cell death (PCD) is a genetically-based cell death mechanism with vital roles in eukaryotes. Although there is limited consensus on similar death mode programs in prokaryotes, emerging evidence suggest that PCD events are operative. Here we present cell death events in a cyanobacterium living endophytically in the fern Azolla microphylla, suggestive of PCD. This symbiosis is characterized by some unique traits such as a synchronized development, a vertical transfer of the cyanobacterium between plant generations, and a highly eroding cyanobacterial genome. A combination of methods was used to identify cell death modes in the cyanobacterium. Light- and electron microscopy analyses showed that the proportion of cells undergoing cell death peaked at 53.6% (average 20%) of the total cell population, depending on the cell type and host developmental stage. Biochemical markers used for early and late programmed cell death events related to apoptosis (Annexin V-EGFP and TUNEL staining assays), together with visualization of cytoskeleton alterations (FITC-phalloidin staining), showed that all cyanobacterial cell categories were affected by cell death. Transmission electron microscopy revealed four modes of cell death: apoptotic-like, autophagic-like, necrotic-like and autolytic-like. Abiotic stresses further enhanced cell death in a dose and time dependent manner. The data also suggest that dynamic changes in the peptidoglycan cell wall layer and in the cytoskeleton distribution patterns may act as markers for the various cell death modes. The presence of a metacaspase homolog (domain p20) further suggests that the death modes are genetically programmed. It is therefore concluded that multiple, likely genetically programmed, cell death modes exist in cyanobacteria, a finding that may be connected with the evolution of cell death in the plant kingdom.
Patients suffering from cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL) caused by New World Leishmania (Viannia) species are at high risk of developing mucosal (ML) or disseminated cutaneous leishmaniasis (DCL). After the formation of a primary skin lesion at the site of the bite by a Leishmania-infected sand fly, the infection can disseminate to form secondary lesions. This metastatic phenotype causes significant morbidity and is often associated with a hyper-inflammatory immune response leading to the destruction of nasopharyngeal tissues in ML, and appearance of nodules or numerous ulcerated skin lesions in DCL. Recently, we connected this aggressive phenotype to the presence of Leishmania RNA virus (LRV) in strains of L. guyanensis, showing that LRV is responsible for elevated parasitaemia, destructive hyper-inflammation and an overall exacerbation of the disease. Further studies of this relationship and the distribution of LRVs in other Leishmania strains and species would benefit from improved methods of viral detection and quantitation, especially ones not dependent on prior knowledge of the viral sequence as LRVs show significant evolutionary divergence.
This study reports various techniques, among which, the use of an anti-dsRNA monoclonal antibody (J2) stands out for its specific and quantitative recognition of dsRNA in a sequence-independent fashion. Applications of J2 include immunofluorescence, ELISA and dot blot: techniques complementing an arsenal of other detection tools, such as nucleic acid purification and quantitative real-time-PCR. We evaluate each method as well as demonstrate a successful LRV detection by the J2 antibody in several parasite strains, a freshly isolated patient sample and lesion biopsies of infected mice.
We propose that refinements of these methods could be transferred to the field for use as a diagnostic tool in detecting the presence of LRV, and potentially assessing the LRV-related risk of complications in cutaneous leishmaniasis.
The endosymbiosis of viruses in microbes is a well-described and prevalent environmental partnership, where viruses offer their cellular host incentives of fitness in exchange for the use of their metabolic machinery. We have recently exposed this as an important factor in certain metastatic leishmaniases of South America, where the nucleic acid of a virus residing within some Leishmania parasites acts as a potent innate immunogen causing a destructive inflammatory response, which worsens disease. Leishmania RNA Virus (LRV) exists within many species of Leishmania as a stable infection; these LRV positive strains have been found throughout South America in cutaneous leishmaniases that are often complicated by the occurrence of infectious metastasis with an underlying hyperinflammatory response. In this report, we describe the use of an anti-dsRNA monoclonal antibody (J2), which specifically recognizes dsRNA in a quantitative and sequence-independent fashion. Refined versions of these methods could be transferred to the field as diagnostic tools for detecting the presence of LRV (or other dsRNA viruses), and potentially assessing the LRV-related risk of complicated cutaneous leishmaniasis.
In contrast to nearly all eukaryotes, the Old World Leishmania species L. infantum and L. major lack the bona fide RNAi machinery genes. Interestingly, both Leishmania genomes code for an atypical Argonaute-like protein that possesses a PIWI domain but lacks the PAZ domain found in Argonautes from RNAi proficient organisms. Using sub-cellular fractionation and confocal fluorescence microscopy, we show that unlike other eukaryotes, the PIWI-like protein is mainly localized in the single mitochondrion in Leishmania. To predict PIWI function, we generated a knockout mutant for the PIWI gene in both L. infantum (Lin) and L. major species by double-targeted gene replacement. Depletion of PIWI has no effect on the viability of insect promastigote forms but leads to an important growth defect of the mammalian amastigote lifestage in vitro and significantly delays disease pathology in mice, consistent with a higher expression of the PIWI transcript in amastigotes. Moreover, amastigotes lacking PIWI display a higher sensitivity to apoptosis inducing agents than wild type parasites, suggesting that PIWI may be a sensor for apoptotic stimuli. Furthermore, a whole-genome DNA microarray analysis revealed that loss of LinPIWI in Leishmania amastigotes affects mostly the expression of specific subsets of developmentally regulated genes. Several transcripts encoding surface and membrane-bound proteins were found downregulated in the LinPIWI(−/−) mutant whereas all histone transcripts were upregulated in the null mutant, supporting the possibility that PIWI plays a direct or indirect role in the stability of these transcripts. Although our data suggest that PIWI is not involved in the biogenesis or the stability of small noncoding RNAs, additional studies are required to gain further insights into the role of this protein on RNA regulation and amastigote development in Leishmania.
Wide-spread protozoan parasites carry endosymbiotic dsRNA viruses with uncharted implications to the human host. Among them, Trichomonas vaginalis, a parasite adapted to the human genitourinary tract, infects globally ∼250 million each year rendering them more susceptible to devastating pregnancy complications (especially preterm birth), HIV infection and HPV-related cancer. While first-line antibiotic treatment (metronidazole) commonly kills the protozoan pathogen, it fails to improve reproductive outcome. We show that endosymbiotic Trichomonasvirus, highly prevalent in T. vaginalis clinical isolates, is sensed by the human epithelial cells via Toll-like receptor 3, triggering Interferon Regulating Factor -3, interferon type I and proinflammatory cascades previously implicated in preterm birth and HIV-1 susceptibility. Metronidazole treatment amplified these proinflammatory responses. Thus, a new paradigm targeting the protozoan viruses along with the protozoan host may prevent trichomoniasis-attributable inflammatory sequelae.
Infection by the human protozoan parasite Leishmania can lead, depending primarily on the parasite species, to either cutaneous or mucocutaneous lesions, or fatal generalized visceral infection. In the New World, Leishmania (Viannia) species can cause mucocutaneous leishmaniasis (MCL). Clinical MCL involves a strong hyper-inflammatory response and parasitic dissemination (metastasis) from a primary lesion to distant sites, leading to destructive metastatic secondary lesions especially in the nasopharyngal areas. Recently, we reported that metastasizing, but not non-metastatic strains of Leishmania (Viannia) guyanensis, have high burden of a non-segmented dsRNA virus, Leishmania RNA Virus (LRV). Viral dsRNA is sensed by the host Toll-like Receptor 3 (TLR3) thereby inducing a pro-inflammatory response and exacerbating the disease. The presence of LRV in Leishmania opens new perspectives not only in basic understanding of the intimate relation between the parasite and LRV, but also in understanding the importance of the inflammatory response in MCL patients.
leishmaniasis; Leishmania RNA virus; hyperinflammation; TLR-3; IFNβ
The protozoan parasite Leishmania is an intracellular pathogen infecting and replicating inside vertebrate host macrophages. A recent model suggests that promastigote and amastigote forms of the parasite mimic mammalian apoptotic cells by exposing phosphatidylserine (PS) at the cell surface to trigger their phagocytic uptake into host macrophages. PS presentation at the cell surface is typically analyzed using fluorescence-labeled annexin V. Here we show that Leishmania promastigotes can be stained by fluorescence-labeled annexin V upon permeabilization or miltefosine treatment. However, combined lipid analysis by thin-layer chromatography, mass spectrometry and 31P nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy revealed that Leishmania promastigotes lack any detectable amount of PS. Instead, we identified several other phospholipid classes such phosphatidic acid, phosphatidylethanolamine; phosphatidylglycerol and phosphatidylinositol as candidate lipids enabling annexin V staining.
Ficolin-2 coded by FCN2 gene is a soluble serum protein that plays an important role in innate immunity. In this study, we analyzed five functional polymorphisms of the FCN2 gene for their possible association with cutaneous leishmaniasis.
Initially we screened 40 Syrian Arabs for the entire FCN2 gene. We investigated the contribution of FCN2 functional variants in 226 patients with cutaneous leishmaniasis and 286 healthy controls from Syria. Polymorphisms in the promoter regions (−986G/A, −602G/A, −4A/G) of the FCN2 gene were assessed by TaqMan real time PCR, whereas polymorphisms in exon8 (+6359C/T and +6424G/T) were assessed by DNA sequencing. We also measured serum ficolin-2 levels in 70 control Syrian Arabs and correlated the serum concentrations to FCN2 genotypes and haplotypes respectively.
Nine new FCN2 variants including two with non synonymous substitutions in exon6 and exon8 were observed. The homozygous genotypes +6424T/T were distributed more in controls and none in patients (P = 0.04). The AGACG haplotype were observed more in patients than in controls (OR = 2.0, 95%CI 1.2–3.4, P = 0.006). The serum ficolin-2 levels were significantly distributed among the reconstructed ficolin-2 haplotypes (P<0.008) and the haplotype AGACG was observed with higher ficolin-2 levels in 70 control individuals.
Our results demonstrate a significant association of FCN2 AGACG haplotype with cutaneous leishmaniasis in a Syrian Arab population. These first results provide a basis for a future study that could confirm or disprove possible relationships between FCN2 gene polymorphisms with cutaneous leishmaniasis.
Mucocutaneous leishmaniasis is caused by infections with intracellular parasites of the Leishmania Viannia subgenus, including Leishmania guyanensis. The pathology develops after parasite dissemination to nasopharyngeal tissues, where destructive metastatic lesions form with chronic inflammation. Currently, the mechanisms involved in lesion development are poorly understood. Here we show that metastasizing parasites have a high Leishmania RNA virus–1 (LRV1) burden that is recognized by the host Toll-like receptor 3 (TLR3) to induce proinflammatory cytokines and chemokines. Paradoxically, these TLR3-mediated immune responses rendered mice more susceptible to infection, and the animals developed an increased footpad swelling and parasitemia. Thus, LRV1 in the metastasizing parasites subverted the host immune response to Leishmania and promoted parasite persistence.
Visceral leishmaniasis is associated with atrophy and histological disorganization of splenic compartments. In this paper, we compared organized and disorganized splenic lymphoid tissue from dogs naturally infected with Leishmania infantum assessing the size of the white pulp compartments, the distribution of T, B and S100+ dendritic cells, using immunohistochemistry and morphometry and the expression of CCR7 and the cytokines, CXCL13, lymphotoxin (LT)-α, LT-β, CCL19, CCL21, TNF-α, IL-10, IFN-γ and TGF-β, using by real time RT-PCR. The lymphoid follicles and marginal zones were smaller (3.2 and 1.9 times, respectively; Mann-Whitney, P<0.02) in animals with disorganized splenic tissue in comparison to those with organized splenic lymphoid tissue. In spleens with disorganized lymphoid tissue, the numbers of T cells and S100+ dendritic cells were decreased in the follicles, and the numbers of B cells were reduced in both the follicles and marginal zones. CXCL13 mRNA expression was lower in animals with disorganized lymphoid tissue (0.5±0.4) compared to those with organized lymphoid tissue (2.7±2.9, both relative to 18S expression, P = 0.01). These changes in the spleen were associated with higher frequency of severe disease (7/12) in the animals with disorganized than in animals with organized (2/13, Chi-square, P = 0.01) splenic lymphoid tissue. The data presented herein suggest that natural infection with Leishmania infantum is associated with the impairment of follicular dendritic cells, CXCL13 expression, B cell migration and germinal center formation and associates these changes with severe clinical forms of visceral leishmaniasis. Furthermore the fact that this work uses dogs naturally infected with Leishmania infantum emphasizes the relevance of the data presented herein for the knowledge on the canine and human visceral leishmaniasis.
The presence of an RNA virus in a South American subgenus of the Leishmania parasite, L. (Viannia), was detected several decades ago but its role in leishmanial virulence and metastasis was only recently described. In Leishmania guyanensis, the nucleic acid of Leishmania RNA virus (LRV1) acts as a potent innate immunogen, eliciting a hyper-inflammatory immune response through toll-like receptor 3 (TLR3). The resultant inflammatory cascade has been shown to increase disease severity, parasite persistence, and perhaps even resistance to anti-leishmanial drugs. Curiously, LRVs were found mostly in clinical isolates prone to infectious metastasis in both their human source and experimental animal model, suggesting an association between the viral hyperpathogen and metastatic complications such as mucocutaneous leishmaniasis (MCL). MCL presents as chronic secondary lesions in the mucosa of the mouth and nose, debilitatingly inflamed and notoriously refractory to treatment. Immunologically, this outcome has many of the same hallmarks associated with the reaction to LRV: production of type 1 interferons, bias toward a chronic Th1 inflammatory state and an impaired ability of host cells to eliminate parasites through oxidative stress. More intriguing, is that the risk of developing MCL is found almost exclusively in infections of the L. (Viannia) subtype, further indication that leishmanial metastasis is caused, at least in part, by a parasitic component. LRV present in this subgenus may contribute to the destructive inflammation of metastatic disease either by acting in concert with other intrinsic “metastatic factors” or by independently preying on host TLR3 hypersensitivity. Because LRV amplifies parasite virulence, its presence may provide a unique target for diagnostic and clinical intervention of metastatic leishmaniasis. Taking examples from other members of the Totiviridae virus family, this paper reviews the benefits and costs of endosymbiosis, specifically for the maintenance of LRV infection in Leishmania parasites, which is often at the expense of its human host.
Leishmania; Totiviridae; mucocutaneous leishmaniasis; dsRNA virus; toll-like receptor
Mosquito-borne diseases are major health problems worldwide. Serological responses to mosquito saliva proteins may be useful in estimating individual exposure to bites from mosquitoes transmitting these diseases. However, the relationships between the levels of these IgG responses and mosquito density as well as IgG response specificity at the genus and/or species level need to be clarified prior to develop new immunological markers to assess human/vector contact. To this end, a kinetic study of antibody levels against several mosquito salivary gland extracts from southeastern French individuals living in three areas with distinct ecological environments and, by implication, distinct Aedes caspius mosquito densities were compared using ELISA. A positive association was observed between the average levels of IgG responses against Ae. caspius salivary gland extracts and spatial Ae. caspius densities. Additionally, the average level of IgG responses increased significantly during the peak exposure to Ae. caspius at each site and returned to baseline four months later, suggesting short-lived IgG responses. The species-specificity of IgG antibody responses was determined by testing antibody responses to salivary gland extracts from Cx. pipiens, a mosquito that is present at these three sites at different density levels, and from two other Aedes species not present in the study area (Ae. aegypti and Ae. albopictus). The IgG responses observed against these mosquito salivary gland extracts contrasted with those observed against Ae. caspius salivary gland extracts, supporting the existence of species-specific serological responses. By considering different populations and densities of mosquitoes linked to environmental factors, this study shows, for the first time, that specific IgG antibody responses against Ae. caspius salivary gland extracts may be related to the seasonal and geographical variations in Ae. caspius density. Characterisation of such immunological-markers may allow the evaluation of the effectiveness of vector-control strategies or estimation of the risk of vector-borne disease transmission.
Activation of proteolytic cell death pathways may circumvent drug resistance in deadly protozoan parasites such as Plasmodium falciparum and Leishmania. To this end, it is important to define the cell death pathway(s) in parasites and thus characterize proteases such as metacaspases (MCA), which have been reported to induce cell death in plants and Leishmania parasites. We, therefore, investigated whether the cell death function of MCA is conserved in different protozoan parasite species such as Plasmodium falciparum and Leishmania major, focusing on the substrate specificity and functional role in cell survival as compared to Saccharomyces cerevisae. Our results show that, similarly to Leishmania, Plasmodium MCA exhibits a calcium-dependent, arginine-specific protease activity and its expression in yeast induced growth inhibition as well as an 82% increase in cell death under oxidative stress, a situation encountered by parasites during the host or when exposed to drugs such as artemisins. Furthermore, we show that MCA cell death pathways in both Plasmodium and Leishmania, involve a z-VAD-fmk inhibitable protease. Our data provide evidence that MCA from both Leishmania and Plasmodium falciparum is able to induce cell death in stress conditions, where it specifically activates a downstream enzyme as part of a cell death pathway. This enzymatic activity is also induced by the antimalarial drug chloroquine in erythrocytic stages of Plasmodium falciparum. Interestingly, we found that blocking parasite cell death influences their drug sensitivity, a result which could be used to create therapeutic strategies that by-pass drug resistance mechanisms by acting directly on the innate pathways of protozoan cell death.
DC are activated by pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs), and this is pivotal for the induction of adaptive immune responses. Thereafter, the clearance of activated DC is crucial to prevent immune pathology. While PAMPs are of major interest for vaccine science due to their adjuvant potential, it is unclear whether and how PAMPs may affect DC viability. We aimed to elucidate the possible apoptotic mechanisms that control activated DC lifespan in response to PAMPs, particularly in vivo.
We report that polyinosinic:polycytidylic acid (PolyIC, synthetic analogue of dsRNA) induces dramatic apoptosis of mouse splenic conventional DC (cDC) in vivo, predominantly affecting the CD8α subset, as shown by flow cytometry-based analysis of splenic DC subsets. Importantly, while Bim deficiency conferred only minor protection, cDC depletion was prevented in mice lacking Bim plus one of three other BH3-only proteins, either Puma, Noxa or Bid. Furthermore, we show that Type I Interferon (IFN) is necessary and sufficient for DC death both in vitro and in vivo, and that TLR3 and MAVS co-operate in IFNß production in vivo to induce DC death in response to PolyIC.
These results demonstrate for the first time in vivo that apoptosis restricts DC lifespan following activation by PolyIC, particularly affecting the CD8α cDC subset. Such DC apoptosis is mediated by the overlapping action of pro-apoptotic BH3-only proteins, including but not solely involving Bim, and is driven by Type I IFN. While Type I IFNs are important anti-viral factors, CD8α cDC are major cross-presenting cells and critical inducers of CTL. We discuss such paradoxical finding on DC death with PolyIC/Type I IFN. These results could contribute to understand immunosuppression associated with chronic infection, and to the optimization of DC-based therapies and the clinical use of PAMPs and Type I IFNs.
Mechanisms concerning life or death decisions in protozoan parasites are still imperfectly understood. Comparison with higher eukaryotes has led to the hypothesis that caspase-like enzymes could be involved in death pathways. This hypothesis was reinforced by the description of caspase-related sequences in the genome of several parasites, including Plasmodium, Trypanosoma and Leishmania. Although several teams are working to decipher the exact role of metacaspases in protozoan parasites, partial, conflicting or negative results have been obtained with respect to the relationship between protozoan metacaspases and cell death. The aim of this paper is to review current knowledge of protozoan parasite metacaspases within a drug targeting perspective.
Apoptosis is a normal component of the development and health of multicellular organisms. However, apoptosis is now considered a prerogative of unicellular organisms, including the trypanosomatids of the genera Trypanosoma spp. and Leishmania spp., causative agents of some of the most important neglected human diseases. Trypanosomatids show typical hallmarks of apoptosis, although they lack some of the key molecules contributing to this process in metazoans, like caspase genes, Bcl-2 family genes and the TNF-related family of receptors. Despite the lack of these molecules, trypanosomatids appear to have the basic machinery to commit suicide. The components of the apoptotic execution machinery of these parasites are slowly coming into light, by targeting essential processes and pathways with different apoptogenic agents and inhibitors. This review will be confined to the events known to drive trypanosomatid parasites to apoptosis.
The execution of the apoptotic death program in metazoans is characterized by a sequence of morphological and biochemical changes that include cell shrinkage, presentation of phosphatidylserine at the cell surface, mitochondrial alterations, chromatin condensation, nuclear fragmentation, membrane blebbing and the formation of apoptotic bodies. Methodologies for measuring apoptosis are based on these markers. Except for membrane blebbing and formation of apoptotic bodies, all other events have been observed in most protozoan parasites undergoing cell death. However, while techniques exist to detect these markers, they are often optimised for metazoan cells and therefore may not pick up subtle differences between the events occurring in unicellular organisms and multi-cellular organisms.
In this review we discuss the markers most frequently used to analyze cell death in protozoan parasites, paying special attention to changes in cell morphology, mitochondrial activity, chromatin structure and plasma membrane structure/permeability. Regarding classical regulators/executors of apoptosis, we have reviewed the present knowledge of caspase-like and nuclease activities.
Metacaspases are cysteine peptidases that could play a role similar to caspases in the cell death programme of plants, fungi and protozoa. The human protozoan parasite Leishmania major expresses a single metacaspase (LmjMCA) harbouring a central domain with the catalytic dyad histidine and cysteine as found in caspases. In this study, we investigated the processing sites important for the maturation of LmjMCA catalytic domain, the cellular localization of LmjMCA polypeptides, and the functional role of the catalytic domain in the cell death pathway of Leishmania parasites. Although LmjMCA polypeptide precursor form harbours a functional mitochondrial localization signal (MLS), we determined that LmjMCA polypeptides are mainly localized in the cytoplasm. In stress conditions, LmjMCA precursor forms were extensively processed into soluble forms containing the catalytic domain. This domain was sufficient to enhance sensitivity of parasites to hydrogen peroxide by impairing the mitochondrion. These data provide experimental evidences of the importance of LmjMCA processing into an active catalytic domain and of its role in disrupting mitochondria, which could be relevant in the design of new drugs to fight leishmaniasis and likely other protozoan parasitic diseases.