Leishmaniases are vector-borne parasitic diseases with 0.9 – 1.4 million new human cases each year worldwide. In the vectorial part of the life-cycle, Leishmania development is confined to the digestive tract. During the first few days after blood feeding, natural barriers to Leishmania development include secreted proteolytic enzymes, the peritrophic matrix surrounding the ingested blood meal and sand fly immune reactions. As the blood digestion proceeds, parasites need to bind to the midgut epithelium to avoid being excreted with the blood remnant. This binding is strictly stage-dependent as it is a property of nectomonad and leptomonad forms only. While the attachment in specific vectors (P. papatasi, P. duboscqi and P. sergenti) involves lipophosphoglycan (LPG), this Leishmania molecule is not required for parasite attachment in other sand fly species experimentally permissive for various Leishmania. During late-stage infections, large numbers of parasites accumulate in the anterior midgut and produce filamentous proteophosphoglycan creating a gel-like plug physically obstructing the gut. The parasites attached to the stomodeal valve cause damage to the chitin lining and epithelial cells of the valve, interfering with its function and facilitating reflux of parasites from the midgut. Transformation to metacyclic stages highly infective for the vertebrate host is the other prerequisite for effective transmission. Here, we review the current state of knowledge of molecular interactions occurring in all these distinct phases of parasite colonization of the sand fly gut, highlighting recent discoveries in the field.
Phlebotomus; Lutzomyia; Kinetoplastida; Proteolytic enzymes; Peritrophic matrix; Chitinase; Innate immunity
In Central Asian foci of zoonotic cutaneous leishmaniases, mixed infections of Leishmania turanica and L. major have been found in a reservoir host (the great gerbil, Rhombomys opimus) as well as in the sand fly vector Phlebotomus papatasi, but hybrids between these two Leishmania species have never been reported. In addition, the role of sand fly species other than P. papatasi in L. turanica circulation is not clear.
In this work we compared the development of L. turanica in three sand fly species belonging to different subgenera. In addition, we studied experimental co-infections of sand flies by both Leishmania species using GFP transfected L. turanica (MRHO/MN/08/BZ18(GFP+)) and RFP transfected L. major (WHOM/IR/-/173-DsRED(RFP+)). The possibility of Leishmania genetic exchange during the vectorial part of the life cycle was studied using flow cytometry combined with immunofluorescent microscopy.
Late-stage infections of L. turanica with frequent colonization of the stomodeal valve were observed in the specific vector P. (Phlebotomus) papatasi and in the permissive vector P. (Adlerius) arabicus. On the other hand, in P. sergenti (the specific vector of L. tropica), L. turanica promatigotes were present only until the defecation of bloodmeal remnants. In their natural vector P. papatasi, L. turanica and L. major developed similarly, and the spatiotemporal dynamics of localization in the sand fly gut was the same for both leishmania species. Fluorescence microscopy in combination with FACS analyses did not detect any L. major / L. turanica hybrids in the experimental co-infection of P. papatasi and P. duboscqi.
Our data provide new insight into the development of different leishmania parasite species during a mixed infection in the sand fly gut. Despite the fact that both Leishmania species developed well in P. papatasi and P. duboscqi and did not outcompete each other, no genetic exchange was found. However, the ability of L. turanica to establish late-stage infections in these specific vectors of L. major suggests that the lipophosphoglycan of this species must be identical or similar to that of L. major.
Leishmania turanica; L. major; Mixed infections; Competition; Genetic exchange; Vector competence; Phlebotomus
Phlebotomine sand flies are blood-sucking insects transmitting Leishmania parasites. In bitten hosts, sand fly saliva elicits specific immune response and the humoral immunity was shown to reflect the intensity of sand fly exposure. Thus, anti-saliva antibodies were suggested as the potential risk marker of Leishmania transmission. In this study, we examined the long-term kinetics and persistence of anti-Phlebotomus papatasi saliva antibody response in BALB/c and C57BL/6 mice. We also tested the reactivity of mice sera with P. papatasi salivary antigens and with the recombinant proteins.
Sera of BALB/c and C57BL/6 mice experimentally bitten by Phlebotomus papatasi were tested by ELISA for the presence of anti-saliva IgE, IgG and its subclasses. We detected a significant increase of specific IgG and IgG1 in both mice strains and IgG2b in BALB/c mice that positively correlated with the number of blood-fed P. papatasi females. Using western blot and mass spectrometry we identified the major P. papatasi antigens as Yellow-related proteins, D7-related proteins, antigen 5-related proteins and SP-15-like proteins. We therefore tested the reactivity of mice sera with four P. papatasi recombinant proteins coding for most of these potential antigens (PpSP44, PpSP42, PpSP30, and PpSP28). Each mouse serum reacted with at least one of the recombinant protein tested, although none of the recombinant proteins were recognized by all sera.
Our data confirmed the concept of using anti-sand fly saliva antibodies as a marker of sand fly exposure in Phlebotomus papatasi–mice model. As screening of specific antibodies is limited by the availability of salivary gland homogenate, utilization of recombinant proteins in such studies would be beneficial. Our present work demonstrates the feasibility of this implementation. A combination of recombinant salivary proteins is recommended for evaluation of intensity of sand fly exposure in endemic areas and for estimation of risk of Leishmania transmission.
Leishmania major is the causative agent of zoonotic cutaneous leishmaniasis and Phlebotomus papatasi serve as the major vector. In endemic foci, rodents are the natural reservoirs of this disease. Thus, we studied anti-P. papatasi saliva antibody response in BALB/c and C57BL/6 mice that are commonly used as model organisms sensitive and resistant to cutaneous leishmaniasis, respectively. We followed the kinetics and persistence of specific antibody response in both mice strains and we characterized the main P. papatasi salivary antigens. We demonstrated that sand fly bites elicit production of specific IgG that reflect the intensity of sand fly exposure. In endemic areas, this could provide useful information about the effectiveness of anti-vector control programs. We also examined the reaction of mice sera with four P. papatasi recombinant proteins. Our data indicate that a combination of these proteins could be used instead of crude salivary gland homogenate for the monitoring of anti-sand fly saliva antibodies in natural hosts in endemic foci.
Phlebotomus tobbi is a vector of Leishmania infantum, and P. sergenti is a vector of Leishmania tropica. Le. infantum and Le. tropica typically cause visceral or cutaneous leishmaniasis, respectively, but Le. infantum strains transmitted by P. tobbi can cause cutaneous disease. To better understand the components and possible implications of sand fly saliva in leishmaniasis, the transcriptomes of the salivary glands (SGs) of these two sand fly species were sequenced, characterized and compared.
cDNA libraries of P. tobbi and P. sergenti female SGs were constructed, sequenced, and analyzed. Clones (1,152) were randomly picked from each library, producing 1,142 high-quality sequences from P. tobbi and 1,090 from P. sergenti. The most abundant, secreted putative proteins were categorized as antigen 5-related proteins, apyrases, hyaluronidases, D7-related and PpSP15-like proteins, ParSP25-like proteins, PpSP32-like proteins, yellow-related proteins, the 33-kDa salivary proteins, and the 41.9-kDa superfamily of proteins. Phylogenetic analyses and multiple sequence alignments of putative proteins were used to elucidate molecular evolution and describe conserved domains, active sites, and catalytic residues. Proteomic analyses of P. tobbi and P. sergenti SGs were used to confirm the identification of 35 full-length sequences (18 in P. tobbi and 17 in P. sergenti). To bridge transcriptomics with biology P. tobbi antigens, glycoproteins, and hyaluronidase activity was characterized.
This analysis of P. sergenti is the first description of the subgenus Paraphlebotomus salivary components. The investigation of the subgenus Larroussius sand fly P. tobbi expands the repertoire of salivary proteins in vectors of Le. infantum. Although P. tobbi transmits a cutaneous form of leishmaniasis, its salivary proteins are most similar to other Larroussius subgenus species transmitting visceral leishmaniasis. These transcriptomic and proteomic analyses provide a better understanding of sand fly salivary proteins across species and subgenera that will be vital in vector-pathogen and vector-host research.
Phlebotomine female sand flies require a blood meal for egg development, and it is during the blood feeding that pathogens can be transmitted to a host. Leishmania parasites are among these pathogens and can cause disfiguring cutaneous or even possibly fatal visceral disease. The Leishmania parasites are deposited into the bite wound along with the sand fly saliva. The components of the saliva have many pharmacologic and immune functions important in blood feeding and disease establishment. In this article, the authors identify and investigate the protein components of saliva of two important vectors of leishmaniasis, Phlebotomus tobbi and P. sergenti, by sequencing the transcriptomes of the salivary glands. We then compared the predicted protein sequences of these salivary proteins to those of other bloodsucking insects to elucidate the similarity in composition, structure, and enzymatic activity. Finally, this descriptive analysis of P. tobbi and P. sergenti transcriptomes can aid future research in identifying molecules for epidemiologic assays and in investigating sand fly-host interactions.
New foci of human CL caused by strains of the Leishmania donovani (L. donovani) complex have been recently described in Cyprus and the Çukurova region in Turkey (L. infantum) situated 150 km north of Cyprus. Cypriot strains were typed by Multilocus Enzyme Electrophoresis (MLEE) using the Montpellier (MON) system as L. donovani zymodeme MON-37. However, multilocus microsatellite typing (MLMT) has shown that this zymodeme is paraphyletic; composed of distantly related genetic subgroups of different geographical origin. Consequently the origin of the Cypriot strains remained enigmatic.
The Cypriot strains were compared with a set of Turkish isolates obtained from a CL patient and sand fly vectors in south-east Turkey (Çukurova region; CUK strains) and from a VL patient in the south-west (Kuşadasi; EP59 strain). These Turkish strains were initially analyzed using the K26-PCR assay that discriminates MON-1 strains by their amplicon size. In line with previous DNA-based data, the strains were inferred to the L. donovani complex and characterized as non MON-1. For these strains MLEE typing revealed two novel zymodemes; L. donovani MON-309 (CUK strains) and MON-308 (EP59). A population genetic analysis of the Turkish isolates was performed using 14 hyper-variable microsatellite loci. The genotypic profiles of 68 previously analyzed L. donovani complex strains from major endemic regions were included for comparison. Population structures were inferred by combination of Bayesian model-based and distance-based approaches. MLMT placed the Turkish and Cypriot strains in a subclade of a newly discovered, genetically distinct L. infantum monophyletic group, suggesting that the Cypriot strains may originate from Turkey.
The discovery of a genetically distinct L. infantum monophyletic group in the south-eastern Mediterranean stresses the importance of species genetic characterization towards better understanding, monitoring and controlling the spread of leishmaniasis in this region.
In eastern Mediterranean, leishmaniasis represents a major public health problem with considerable impact on morbidity and potential to spread. Cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL) caused by L. major or L. tropica accounts for most cases in this region although visceral leishmaniasis (VL) caused by L. infantum is also common. New foci of human CL caused by L. donovani complex strains were recently described in Cyprus and Turkey. Herein we analyzed Turkish strains from human CL foci in Çukurova region (north of Cyprus) and a human VL case in Kuşadasi. These were compared to Cypriot strains that were previously typed by Multilocus Enzyme Electrophoresis (MLEE) as L. donovani MON-37. Nevertheless, they were found genetically distinct from MON-37 strains of other regions and therefore their origin remained enigmatic. A population study was performed by Multilocus Microsatellite Typing (MLMT) and the profile of the Turkish strains was compared to previously analyzed L. donovani complex strains. Our results revealed close genetic relationship between Turkish and Cypriot strains, which form a genetically distinct L. infantum monophyletic group, suggesting that Cypriot strains may originate from Turkey. Our analysis indicates that the epidemiology of leishmaniasis in this region is more complicated than originally thought.
Phlebotomine sand flies are blood-sucking insects that can transmit Leishmania parasites. Hosts bitten by sand flies develop an immune response against sand fly salivary antigens. Specific anti-saliva IgG indicate the exposure to the vector and may also help to estimate the risk of Leishmania spp. transmission. In this study, we examined the canine antibody response against the saliva of Phlebotomus perniciosus, the main vector of Leishmania infantum in the Mediterranean Basin, and characterized salivary antigens of this sand fly species.
Sera of dogs bitten by P. perniciosus under experimental conditions and dogs naturally exposed to sand flies in a L. infantum focus were tested by ELISA for the presence of anti-P. perniciosus antibodies. Antibody levels positively correlated with the number of blood-fed P. perniciosus females. In naturally exposed dogs the increase of specific IgG, IgG1 and IgG2 was observed during sand fly season. Importantly, Leishmania-positive dogs revealed significantly lower anti-P. perniciosus IgG2 compared to Leishmania-negative ones. Major P. perniciosus antigens were identified by western blot and mass spectrometry as yellow proteins, apyrases and antigen 5-related proteins.
Results suggest that monitoring canine antibody response to sand fly saliva in endemic foci could estimate the risk of L. infantum transmission. It may also help to control canine leishmaniasis by evaluating the effectiveness of anti-vector campaigns. Data from the field study where dogs from the Italian focus of L. infantum were naturally exposed to P. perniciosus bites indicates that the levels of anti-P. perniciosus saliva IgG2 negatively correlate with the risk of Leishmania transmission. Thus, specific IgG2 response is suggested as a risk marker of L. infantum transmission for dogs.
Leishmania infantum is the causative agent of zoonotic visceral leishmaniasis in the Mediterranean Basin and Phlebotomus perniciosus serve as the major vector. In the endemic foci, Leishmania parasites are transmitted mostly to dogs, the main reservoir host, and to humans. We studied the canine humoral immune response to Phlebotomus perniciosus saliva and its potential use as a marker of sand fly exposure and consequently as a risk marker for Leishmania transmission. We also characterized major salivary antigens of P. perniciosus. We demonstrated that under laboratory conditions, the levels of anti-P. perniciosus saliva antibodies positively correlated with the number of blood-fed sand flies and therefore, may be used to evaluate the need for, and the effectiveness of, anti-vector campaigns. In parallel, we studied sera of dogs naturally exposed to P. perniciosus in highly active focus of canine leishmaniasis in Southern Italy. Specific antibodies against P. perniciosus saliva were significantly increased according to the ongoing sand fly season. Moreover, the levels of anti-P. perniciosus antibodies in naturally bitten dogs negatively correlated with anti-Leishmania seropositivity. Thus, for dogs living in endemic areas, specific antibody response against saliva of the vector is an important marker for estimating the risk of Leishmania transmission.
Visceral leishmaniasis is the world' second largest vector-borne parasitic killer and a neglected tropical disease, prevalent in poor communities. Long-lasting insecticidal nets (LNs) are a low cost proven vector intervention method for malaria control; however, their effectiveness against visceral leishmaniasis (VL) is unknown. This study quantified the effect of LNs on exposure to the sand fly vector of VL in India and Nepal during a two year community intervention trial.
As part of a paired-cluster randomized controlled clinical trial in VL-endemic regions of India and Nepal we tested the effect of LNs on sand fly biting by measuring the antibody response of subjects to the saliva of Leishmania donovani vector Phlebotomus argentipes and the sympatric (non-vector) Phlebotomus papatasi. Fifteen to 20 individuals above 15 years of age from 26 VL endemic clusters were asked to provide a blood sample at baseline, 12 and 24 months post-intervention.
A total of 305 individuals were included in the study, 68 participants provided two blood samples and 237 gave three samples. A random effect linear regression model showed that cluster-wide distribution of LNs reduced exposure to P. argentipes by 12% at 12 months (effect 0.88; 95% CI 0.83–0.94) and 9% at 24 months (effect 0.91; 95% CI 0.80–1.02) in the intervention group compared to control adjusting for baseline values and pair. Similar results were obtained for P. papatasi.
This trial provides evidence that LNs have a limited effect on sand fly exposure in VL endemic communities in India and Nepal and supports the use of sand fly saliva antibodies as a marker to evaluate vector control interventions.
Visceral leishmaniasis (VL), also known as kala azar, is one of the major public health concerns of the Indian subcontinent, caused by Leishmania donovani transmitted by the bite of the sand fly Phlebotomus argentipes. To date, Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS) campaigns have been unable to control the disease. This makes Long-lasting insecticidal nets (LNs) an attractive alternative or complement to IRS. Therefore, it is important to assess the extent that LNs reduce bites from P. argentipes. When female sand flies bite they require their saliva to efficiently bloodfeed. For humans and animals alike, the host' immune response against components of sand fly saliva can be used as a marker of exposure to the vector. Here we describe how comprehensive coverage of LNs in trial communities over two years reduced antibody levels to the saliva of P. argentipes and P. papatasi (a man-biting sand fly that co-exists with P. argentipes but does not transmit VL) sand flies by 9–12% compared to communities without LNs. Our results demonstrate that the large-scale distribution of LNs did not confer significant additional protection against sand fly bites in VL-endemic regions of India and Nepal and questions the indoor transmission of L. donovani in these regions.
We quantified Leishmania infantum parasites transmitted by natural vectors for the first time. Both L. infantum strains studied, dermotropic CUK3 and viscerotropic IMT373, developed well in Phlebotomus perniciosus and Lutzomyia longipalpis. They produced heavy late-stage infection and colonized the stomodeal valve, which is a prerequisite for successful transmission. Infected sand fly females, and especially those that transmit parasites, feed significantly longer on the host (1.5–1.8 times) than non-transmitting females. Quantitative PCR revealed that P. perniciosus harboured more CUK3 strain parasites, while in L. longipalpis the intensity of infection was higher for the IMT373 strain. However, in both sand fly species the parasite load transmitted was higher for the strain with dermal tropism (CUK3). All but one sand fly female infected by the IMT373 strain transmitted less than 600 promastigotes; in contrast, 29% of L. longipalpis and 14% of P. perniciosus infected with the CUK3 strain transmitted more than 1000 parasites. The parasite number transmitted by individual sand flies ranged from 4 up to 4.19×104 promastigotes; thus, the maximal natural dose found was still about 250 times lower than the experimental challenge dose used in previous studies. This finding emphasizes the importance of determining the natural infective dose for the development of an accurate experimental model useful for the evaluation of new drugs and vaccines.
Leishmaniasis is a disease caused by protozoan parasites which are transmitted through the bites of infected insects called sand flies. The World Health Organization has estimated that leishmaniases cause 1.6 million new cases annually, of which an estimated 1.1 million are cutaneous or mucocutaneous, and 500,000 are visceral, the most severe form of the disease and fatal if left untreated. The development of a more natural model is crucial for the evaluation of new drugs or vaccine candidates against leishmaniases. The main aim of this study was to quantify the number of Leishmania infantum parasites transmitted by a single sand fly female into the skin of a vertebrate host (mouse). Two L. infantum strains, viscerotropic IMT373 and dermotropic CUK3, were compared in two natural sand fly vectors: Phlebotomus perniciosus and Lutzomyia longipalpis. We found that the parasite number transmitted by individual sand flies ranged from 4 up to 4.19×104. The maximal natural infective dose found in our experiments was about 250 times lower than the experimental challenge dose used in most previous studies.
The Leishmania protozoan parasites cause devastating human diseases. Leishmania have been considered to replicate clonally, without genetic exchange. However, an accumulation of evidence indicates that there are inter-specific and intra-specific hybrids among natural populations. The first and so far only experimental proof of genetic exchange was obtained in 2009 when double drug resistant Leishmania major hybrids were produced by co-infecting sand flies with two strains carrying different drug resistance markers. However, the location and timing of hybridisation events in sand flies has not been described.
Here we have co-infected Phlebotomus perniciosus and Lutzomyia longipalpis with transgenic promastigotes of Leishmania donovani strains carrying hygromycin or neomycin resistance genes and red or green fluorescent markers. Fed females were dissected at different times post bloodmeal (PBM) and examined by fluorescent microscopy or fluorescent activated cell sorting (FACS) followed by confocal microscopy. In mixed infections strains LEM3804 and Gebre-1 reached the cardia and stomodeal valves more rapidly than strains LEM4265 and LV9. Hybrids unequivocally expressing both red and green fluorescence were seen in single flies of both vectors tested, co-infected with LEM4265 and Gebre-1. The hybrids were present as short (procyclic) promastigotes 2 days PBM in the semi-digested blood in the endoperitrophic space. Recovery of a clearly co-expressing hybrid was also achieved by FACS. However, hybrids could not sustain growth in vitro.
For the first time, we observed L. donovani hybrids in the sand fly vector, 2 days PBM and described the morphological stages involved. Fluorescence microscopy in combination with FACS allows visualisation and recovery of the progeny of experimental crosses but on this occasion the hybrids were not viable in vitro. Nevertheless, genetic exchange in L. donovani has profound epidemiological significance, because it facilitates the emergence and spread of new phenotypic traits.
Parasite-vector interactions are fundamental in the transmission of vector-borne diseases such as leishmaniasis. Leishmania development in the vector sand fly is confined to the digestive tract, where sand fly midgut molecules interact with the parasites. In this work we sequenced and analyzed two midgut-specific cDNA libraries from sugar fed and blood fed female Phlebotomus perniciosus and compared the transcript expression profiles.
A total of 4111 high quality sequences were obtained from the two libraries and assembled into 370 contigs and 1085 singletons. Molecules with putative roles in blood meal digestion, peritrophic matrix formation, immunity and response to oxidative stress were identified, including proteins that were not previously reported in sand flies. These molecules were evaluated relative to other published sand fly transcripts. Comparative analysis of the two libraries revealed transcripts differentially expressed in response to blood feeding. Molecules up regulated by blood feeding include a putative peritrophin (PperPer1), two chymotrypsin-like proteins (PperChym1 and PperChym2), a putative trypsin (PperTryp3) and four putative microvillar proteins (PperMVP1, 2, 4 and 5). Additionally, several transcripts were more abundant in the sugar fed midgut, such as two putative trypsins (PperTryp1 and PperTryp2), a chymotrypsin (PperChym3) and a microvillar protein (PperMVP3). We performed a detailed temporal expression profile analysis of the putative trypsin transcripts using qPCR and confirmed the expression of blood-induced and blood-repressed trypsins. Trypsin expression was measured in Leishmania infantum-infected and uninfected sand flies, which identified the L. infantum-induced down regulation of PperTryp3 at 24 hours post-blood meal.
This midgut tissue-specific transcriptome provides insight into the molecules expressed in the midgut of P. perniciosus, an important vector of visceral leishmaniasis in the Old World. Through the comparative analysis of the libraries we identified molecules differentially expressed during blood meal digestion. Additionally, this study provides a detailed comparison to transcripts of other sand flies. Moreover, our analysis of putative trypsins demonstrated that L. infantum infection can reduce the transcript abundance of trypsin PperTryp3 in the midgut of P. perniciosus.
The binding of Leishmania promastigotes to the midgut epithelium is regarded as an essential part of the life-cycle in the sand fly vector, enabling the parasites to persist beyond the initial blood meal phase and establish the infection. However, the precise nature of the promastigote stage(s) that mediate binding is not fully understood.
To address this issue we have developed an in vitro gut binding assay in which two promastigote populations are labelled with different fluorescent dyes and compete for binding to dissected sand fly midguts. Binding of procyclic, nectomonad, leptomonad and metacyclic promastigotes of Leishmania infantum and L. mexicana to the midguts of blood-fed, female Lutzomyia longipalpis was investigated. The results show that procyclic and metacyclic promastigotes do not bind to the midgut epithelium in significant numbers, whereas nectomonad and leptomonad promastigotes both bind strongly and in similar numbers. The assay was then used to compare the binding of a range of different parasite species (L. infantum, L. mexicana, L. braziliensis, L. major, L. tropica) to guts dissected from various sand flies (Lu. longipalpis, Phlebotomus papatasi, P. sergenti). The results of these comparisons were in many cases in line with expectations, the natural parasite binding most effectively to its natural vector, and no examples were found where a parasite was unable to bind to its natural vector. However, there were interesting exceptions: L. major and L. tropica being able to bind to Lu. longipalpis better than L. infantum; L. braziliensis was able to bind to P. papatasi as well as L. major; and significant binding of L. major to P. sergenti and L. tropica to P. papatasi was observed.
The results demonstrate that Leishmania gut binding is strictly stage-dependent, is a property of those forms found in the middle phase of development (nectomonad and leptomonad forms), but is absent in the early blood meal and final stages (procyclic and metacyclic forms). Further they show that although gut binding may be necessary for parasite establishment, in several vector-parasite pairs the specificity of such in vitro binding alone is insufficient to explain overall vector specificity. Other significant barriers to development must exist in certain refractory Leishmania parasite-sand fly vector combinations. A re-appraisal of the specificity of the Leishmania-sand fly relationship is required.
Many infectious diseases such as leishmaniasis are transmitted to people by biting insects, in this case by female sand flies. To control this and similar diseases we need to understand why particular species of sand fly transmit particular species of Leishmania. One important feature of the Leishmania parasite-sand fly interaction is the ability of the parasite to bind to the midgut wall of the fly, as it is within the gut that the parasite lives. Here we have studied the specificity of this interaction and report two main findings. The first is that only specific stages in the parasite life-cycle are capable of binding to the gut. The second is that, providing these life-cycle stages are analysed, parasite species that can be transmitted by particular sand flies are always capable of binding to their guts, but in some cases they are also capable of binding to non-transmitting sand fly species. This shows that gut binding by parasites is necessary but not sufficient to explain transmission. This research advances our understanding of Leishmania biology, but also shows us that there are further aspects that need to be investigated before we can fully understand the Leishmania-sand fly relationship.
Antibody (IgG) responses to the saliva of Phlebotomus argentipes were investigated using serum samples from regions of India endemic and non-endemic for visceral leishmaniasis (VL). By pre-adsorbing the sera against the saliva of the competing human-biting but non-VL vector P. papatasi, we significantly improved the specificity of a P. argentipes saliva enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Using this method, we observed a statistically significant correlation between antibodies to P. argenitpes saliva and the average indoor density of female sand flies. Additionally, the method was able to detect recent changes in vector exposure when sera from VL patients were assayed before, during, and after hospitalization and protected from sand fly bites under untreated bed nets. Collectively, these results highlight the utility of antibodies to P. argentipes saliva as an important tool to evaluate VL vector control programs.
Sand flies deliver Leishmania parasites to a host alongside salivary molecules that affect infection outcomes. Though some proteins are immunogenic and have potential as markers of vector exposure, their identity and vector specificity remain elusive.
We screened human, dog, and fox sera from endemic areas of visceral leishmaniasis to identify potential markers of specific exposure to saliva of Lutzomyia longipalpis. Human and dog sera were further tested against additional sand fly species. Recombinant proteins of nine transcripts encoding secreted salivary molecules of Lu. longipalpis were produced, purified, and tested for antigenicity and specificity. Use of recombinant proteins corresponding to immunogenic molecules in Lu. longipalpis saliva identified LJM17 and LJM11 as potential markers of exposure. LJM17 was recognized by human, dog, and fox sera; LJM11 by humans and dogs. Notably, LJM17 and LJM11 were specifically recognized by humans exposed to Lu. longipalpis but not by individuals exposed to Lu. intermedia.
Salivary recombinant proteins are of value as markers of vector exposure. In humans, LJM17 and LJM11 emerged as potential markers of specific exposure to Lu. longipalpis, the vector of Leishmania infantum chagasi in Latin America. In dogs, LJM17, LJM11, LJL13, LJL23, and LJL143 emerged as potential markers of sand fly exposure. Testing these recombinant proteins in large scale studies will validate their usefulness as specific markers of Lu. longipalpis exposure in humans and of sand fly exposure in dogs.
Leishmania parasites are transmitted by the bite of an infected vector sand fly that injects salivary molecules into the host skin during feeding. Certain salivary molecules can produce antibodies and can be used as an indicator of exposure to a vector sand fly and potentially the disease it transmits. Here we identified potential markers of specific exposure to the sand fly Lutzomyia longipalpis, the vector of visceral leishmaniasis in Latin America. Initially, we determined which of the salivary proteins produce antibodies in humans, dogs, and foxes from areas endemic for the disease. To identify potential specific markers of vector exposure, we produced nine different recombinant salivary proteins from Lu. longipalpis and tested for their recognition by individuals exposed to another human-biting sand fly, Lu. intermedia, that transmits cutaneous leishmaniasis and commonly occurs in the same endemic areas as Lu. longipalpis. Two of the nine salivary proteins were recognized only by humans exposed to Lu. longipalpis, suggesting they are immunogenic proteins and may be useful in epidemiological studies. The identification of specific salivary proteins as potential markers of exposure to vector sand flies will increase our understanding of vector–human interaction, bring new insights to vector control, and in some instances act as an indicator for risk of acquiring disease.
Leishmaniases are serious parasitic diseases the etiological organisms of which are transmitted by insect vectors, phlebotominae sand flies. Two sand fly species, Phlebotomus papatasi and P. sergenti, display remarkable specificity for Leishmania parasites they transmit in nature, but many others are broadly permissive to the development of different Leishmania species. Previous studies have suggested that in ‘specific’ vectors the successful parasite development is mediated by parasite surface glycoconjugates and sand fly lectins, however we show here that interactions involving ‘permissive’ sand flies utilize another molecules. We did find that the abundant surface glycoconjugate lipophosphoglycan, essential for attachment of Leishmania major in the specific vector P. papatasi, was not required for parasite adherence or survival in the permissive vectors P. arabicus and Lutzomyia longipalpis. Attachment in several permissive sand fly species instead correlated with the presence of midgut glycoproteins bearing terminal N-Acetyl-galactosamine and with the occurrence of a lectin-like activity on Leishmania surface. This new binding modality has important implications to parasite transmission and evolution. It may contribute to the successful spreading of Leishmania due to their adaptation into new vectors, namely transmission of L. infantum by Lutzomyia longipalpis; this event led to the establishment of L.infantum/chagasi in Latin America.
Parasite transmission; Emerging infectious disease; Trypanosomatid protozoan
Development of Leishmania infantum/Leishmania major hybrids was studied in two sand fly species. In Phlebotomus papatasi, which supported development of L. major but not L. infantum, the hybrids produced heavy late-stage infections with high numbers of metacyclic promastigotes. In the permissive vector Lutzomyia longipalpis, all Leishmania strains included in this study developed well. Hybrids were found to express L. major lipophosphoglycan, apparently enabling them to survive in P. papatasi midgut. The genetic exchange of the hybrids thus appeared to have enhanced their transmission potential and fitness. A potentially serious consequence is the future spread of the hybrids using this peridomestic and antropophilic vector.
Leishmania transmission; Parasite-vector interaction; Emerging diseases
Sand fly species able to support the survival of the protozoan parasite Leishmania have been classified as permissive or specific, based upon their ability to support a wide or limited range of strains and/or species. Studies of a limited number of fly/parasite species combinations have implicated parasite surface molecules in this process and here we provide further evidence in support of this proposal. We investigated the role of lipophosphoglycan (LPG) and other phosphoglycans (PGs) in sand fly survival, using Leishmania major mutants deficient in LPG (lpg1−), and the phosphoglycan (PG)-deficient mutant lpg2−. The sand fly species used were the permissive species Phlebotomus perniciosus and P. argentipes, and the specific vector P. duboscqi, a species resistant to L. infantum development.
The lpg2− mutants did not survive well in any of the three sand fly species, suggesting that phosphoglycans and/or other LPG2-dependent molecules are required for parasite development. In vitro, all three L. major lines were equally resistant to proteolytic activity of bovine trypsin, suggesting that sand fly-specific hydrolytic proteases or other factors are the reason for the early lpg2− parasite killing. The lpg1− mutants developed late-stage infections in two permissive species, P. perniciosus and P. argentipes, where their infection rates and intensities of infections were comparable to the wild type (WT) parasites. In contrast, in P. duboscqi the lpg1− mutants developed significantly worse than the WT parasites.
In combination with previous studies, the data establish clearly that LPG is not required for Leishmania survival in permissive species P. perniciosus and P. argentipes but plays an important role in the specific vector P. duboscqi. With regard to PGs other than LPG, the data prove the importance of LPG2-related molecules for survival of L. major in the three sand fly species tested.
Phlebotomine sand flies are small blood-feeding insects, medically important as vectors of protozoan parasites of the genus Leishmania. Sand flies species can be divided roughly into two groups, termed specific or permissive, depending on their ability to support development of one or a few strains vs. a broad spectrum of these parasites. In this study, we explored the ability of two Leishmania major glycocalyx mutants to survive within these different types of vectors. The lpg1− mutant, which specifically lacks lipophosphoglycan (LPG), was able to survive normally in two permissive species, Phlebotomus argentipes and P. perniciosus, but was only able to survive within the specific species P. duboscqi for a limited time prior to dissolution of the peritrophic matrix. Consistent with its classification as a specific sand fly vector, P. duboscqi was not able to support development of L. infantum. The lpg2− L. major mutant, which is a broader mutant and lacks all phosphoglycans including LPG and proteophosphoglycans, was unable to survive in all the three vector species tested. This study extends the knowledge on the role of Leishmania major surface glycoconjugates to development in three important vector species and gives supporting evidence for the existence of an LPG-independent mechanism for survival in sand flies, as well as the importance of LPG2-dependent glycoconjugates in parasite survival.
Light microscopy of native preparations, histology, and electron microscopy have revealed that Phlebotomus duboscqi belongs to a class of sand fly species with prompt development of the peritrophic matrix (PM). Secretion of electron-lucent fibrils, presumably chitin, starts immediately after the ingestion of a blood meal and, about 6 h later, is followed by secretion of amorphous electron-dense components, presumably proteins and glycoproteins. The PM matures in less than 12 h and consists of a thin laminar outer layer and a thick amorphous inner layer. No differences have been found in the timing of the disintegration of the PM in females infected with Leishmania major. In both groups of females (infected and uninfected), the disintegration of the PM is initiated at the posterior end. Although parasites are present at high densities in the anterior part of the blood meal bolus, they escape from the PM at the posterior end only. These results suggest that L. major chitinase does not have an important role in parasite escape from the PM. Promastigotes remain in the intraperitrophic space until the PM is broken down by sand-fly-derived chitinases and only then migrate anteriorly. Disintegration of the PM occurs simultaneously with the morphological transformation of parasites from procyclic forms to long nectomonads. A novel role is ascribed to the anterior plug, a component of the PM secreted by the thoracic midgut; this plug functions as a temporary barrier to stop the forward migration of nectomonads to the thoracic midgut.
Chitinase; Midgut; Digestion; Peritrophic matrix; Phlebotomus duboscqi (Insecta); Leishmania major
Sand fly saliva plays an important role in blood feeding and Leishmania transmission as it was shown to increase parasite virulence. On the other hand, immunity to salivary components impedes the establishment of infection. Therefore, it is most desirable to gain a deeper insight into the composition of saliva in sand fly species which serve as vectors of various forms of leishmaniases. In the present work, we focused on Phlebotomus (Adlerius) arabicus, which was recently shown to transmit Leishmania tropica, the causative agent of cutaneous leishmaniasis in Israel.
A cDNA library from salivary glands of P. arabicus females was constructed and transcripts were sequenced and analyzed. The most abundant protein families identified were SP15-like proteins, ParSP25-like proteins, D7-related proteins, yellow-related proteins, PpSP32-like proteins, antigen 5-related proteins, and 34 kDa-like proteins. Sequences coding for apyrases, hyaluronidase and other putative secreted enzymes were also represented, including endonuclease, phospholipase, pyrophosphatase, amylase and trehalase. Mass spectrometry analysis confirmed the presence of 20 proteins predicted to be secreted in the salivary proteome. Humoral response of mice bitten by P. arabicus to salivary antigens was assessed and many salivary proteins were determined to be antigenic.
This transcriptomic analysis of P. arabicus salivary glands is the first description of salivary proteins of a sand fly in the subgenus Adlerius. Proteomic analysis of P. arabicus salivary glands produced the most comprehensive account in a single sand fly species to date. Detailed information and phylogenetic relationships of the salivary proteins are provided, expanding the knowledge base of molecules that are likely important factors of sand fly-host and sand fly-Leishmania interactions. Enzymatic and immunological investigations further demonstrate the value of functional transcriptomics in advancing biological and epidemiological research that can impact leishmaniasis.
Salivary hyaluronidases have been described in a few bloodsucking arthropods. However, very little is known about the presence of this enzyme in various bloodsucking insects and no data are available on its effect on transmitted microorganisms. Here, we studied hyaluronidase activity in thirteen bloodsucking insects belonging to four different orders. In addition, we assessed the effect of hyaluronidase coinoculation on the outcome of Leishmania major infection in BALB/c mice.
High hyaluronidase activity was detected in several Diptera tested, namely deer fly Chrysops viduatus, blackflies Odagmia ornata and Eusimilium latipes, mosquito Culex quinquefasciatus, biting midge Culicoides kibunensis and sand fly Phlebotomus papatasi. Lower activity was detected in cat flea Ctenocephalides felis. No activity was found in kissing bug Rhodnius prolixus, mosquitoes Anopheles stephensi and Aedes aegypti, tse-tse fly Glossina fuscipes, stable fly Stomoxys calcitrans and human louse Pediculus humanus. Hyaluronidases of different insects vary substantially in their molecular weight, the structure of the molecule and the sensitivity to reducing conditions or sodium dodecyl sulphate. Hyaluronidase exacerbates skin lesions caused by Leishmania major; more severe lesions developed in mice where L. major promastigotes were coinjected with hyaluronidase.
High hyaluronidase activities seem to be essential for insects with pool-feeding mode, where they facilitate the enlargement of the feeding lesion and serve as a spreading factor for other pharmacologically active compounds present in saliva. As this enzyme is present in all Phlebotomus and Lutzomyia species studied to date, it seems to be one of the factors responsible for enhancing activity present in sand fly saliva. We propose that salivary hyaluronidase may facilitate the spread of other vector-borne microorganisms, especially those transmitted by insects with high hyaluronidase activity, namely blackflies (Simuliidae), biting midges (Ceratopogonidae) and horse flies (Tabanidae).
Hyaluronidases are enzymes degrading the extracellular matrix of vertebrates. Bloodsucking insects use them to cleave the skin of the host, enlarge the feeding lesion and acquire the blood meal. In addition, resulting fragments of extracellular matrix modulate local immune response of the host, which may positively affect transmission of vector-borne diseases, including leishmaniasis. Leishmaniases are diseases with a wide spectrum of clinical forms, from a relatively mild cutaneous affection to life-threatening visceral disease. Their causative agents, protozoans of the genus Leishmania, are transmitted by phlebotomine sand flies. Sand fly saliva was described to enhance Leishmania infection, but the information about molecules responsible for this exacerbating effect is still very limited. In the present work we demonstrated hyaluronidase activity in salivary glands of various Diptera and in fleas. In addition, we showed that hyaluronidase exacerbates Leishmania lesions in mice and propose that salivary hyaluronidase may facilitate the spread of other vector-borne microorganisms.
Chitinases of trypanosomatid parasites have been proposed to fulfil various roles in their blood-feeding arthropod vectors but so far none have been directly tested using a molecular approach. We characterized the ability of Leishmania mexicana episomally transfected with LmexCht1 (the L. mexicana chitinase gene) to survive and grow within the permissive sand fly vector, Lutzomyia longipalpis. Compared with control plasmid transfectants, the overexpression of chitinase was found to increase the average number of parasites per sand fly and accelerate the escape of parasites from the peritrophic matrix-enclosed blood meal as revealed by earlier arrival at the stomodeal valve. Such flies also exhibited increased damage to the structure of the stomodeal valve, which may facilitate transmission by regurgitation. When exposed individually to BALB/c mice, those flies with chitinase-overexpressing parasites spent on average 2.4–2.5 times longer in contact with their host during feeding, compared with flies with control infections. Furthermore, the lesions that resulted from these single fly bite infections were both significantly larger and with higher final parasite burdens than controls. These data show that chitinase is a multifunctional virulence factor for L. mexicana which assists its survival in Lu. longipalpis. Specifically, this enzyme enables the parasites to colonize the anterior midgut of the sand fly more quickly, modify the sand fly stomodeal valve and affect its blood feeding, all of which combine to enhance transmission.
TOC summary for table of contents: Infection with Leishmania tropica is emerging because of encroachment of rock hyraxes and transmission by multiple vector species.
Transmission of Leishmania tropica was studied in 2 adjacent foci in Israel where vector populations differ. Only Phlebotomus sergenti was found infected with L. tropica in the southern focus; P. arabicus was the main vector in the northern focus. Rock hyraxes (Procavia capensis) were incriminated as reservoir hosts in both foci. L. tropica strains from the northern focus isolated from sand flies, cutaneous leishmaniasis cases, and rock hyraxes were antigenically similar to L. major, and strains from the southern focus were typically L. tropica. Laboratory studies showed that P. arabicus is a competent vector of L. tropica, and P. sergenti is essentially refractory to L. tropica from the northern focus. Susceptibility of P. arabicus may be mediated by O glycoproteins on the luminal surface of its midgut. The 2 foci differ with respect to parasites and vectors, but increasing peridomestic rock hyrax populations are probably responsible for emergence of cutaneous leishmaniasis in both foci.
Cutaneous leishmaniasis; rock hyrax; Procavia capensis; Leishmania tropica; Phlebotomus sergenti; Phlebotomus arabicus; zoonosis; sand flies; Israel; research
Salivary proteins from sandflies are potential targets for exploitation as vaccines to control Leishmania infection; in this work we tested the hypothesis that salivary proteins from geographically distant Phlebotomus duboscqi sandfly populations are highly divergent due to the pressure exerted by the host immune response. Salivary gland cDNA libraries were prepared from wild-caught P. duboscqi from Mali and recently colonised flies of the same species from Kenya.
Transcriptome and proteome analysis resulted in the identification of the most abundant salivary gland-secreted proteins. Orthologues of these salivary proteins were identified by phylogenetic tree analysis. Moreover, comparative analysis between the orthologues of these two different populations resulted in a high level of protein identity, including the predicted MHC class II T-cell epitopes from all these salivary proteins.
These data refute the hypothesis that salivary proteins from geographically distinct populations of the same Phlebotomus sandfly species are highly divergent. They also suggest the potential for using the same species-specific components in a potential vector saliva-based vaccine.
Antimicrobial peptides are major components of the innate immune response of epithelial cells. In insect vectors, these peptides may play a role in the control of gut pathogens. We have analyzed antimicrobial peptides produced by the sand fly Phlebotomus duboscqi, after challenge by injected bacteria or feeding with bacteria or the protozoan parasite Leishmania major. A new hemolymph peptide with antimicrobial activity was identified and shown to be a member of the insect defensin family. Interestingly, this defensin exhibits an antiparasitic activity against the promastigote forms of L. major, which reside normally within the sand fly midgut. P. duboscqi defensin could be induced by both hemolymph or gut infections. Defensin mRNA was induced following infection by wild-type L. major, and this induction was much less following infections with L. major knockout mutants that survive poorly in sand flies, due to specific deficiencies in abundant cell surface glycoconjugates containing phosphoglycans (including lipophosphoglycan). The ability of gut pathogens to induce gut as well as fat body expression of defensin raises the possibility that this antimicrobial peptide might play a key role in the development of parasitic infections.