This study was conducted to examine the interactions among the innate and adaptive immune components of the liver parenchyma during acute viral hepatitis. Mice were i.v. infected with a recombinant adenovirus, and within the first 24 h of infection, we found a transient, but significant, accumulation of IL-17 and IL-23 in the liver. In vivo neutralization of these interleukins alleviated the liver injury. Further investigations showed that IL-17 neutralization halted the intrahepatic accumulation of CTL and Th1 cells. A majority of the IL-17-producing cells in the liver were γδ T cells. Additionally, intrahepatic IL-17+ γδ T cells, but not the IFN-γ+ ones, preferentially expressed IL-7Rα (CD127) on their surface, which coincided with an elevation of hepatocyte-derived IL-7 at 12 h post-infection. IL-7Rα blockade in vivo severely impeded the expansion of IL-17-producing cells following viral infection. In vitro, IL-7 synergized with IL-23 and directly stimulated IL-17 production from γδ T cells in response to TCRγδ stimulation. Finally, type I interferon (IFN-I) signaling was found to be critical for hepatic IL-7 induction. Collectively, these results showed that the IFN-I/IL-7/IL-17 cascade was important in priming T cell responses in the liver. Moreover, the highly coordinated cross talk among hepatocytes and innate and adaptive immune cells played a critical role in antiviral immunity in hepatitis.
Cystatin 9 (CST9) is a member of the type 2 cysteine protease inhibitor family, which has been shown to have immunomodulatory effects that restrain inflammation, but its functions against bacterial infections are unknown. Here, we report that purified human recombinant (r)CST9 protects against the deadly bacterium Francisella tularensis (Ft) in vitro and in vivo. Macrophages infected with the Ft human pathogen Schu 4 (S4), then given 50 pg of rCST9 exhibited significantly decreased intracellular bacterial replication and increased killing via preventing the escape of S4 from the phagosome. Further, rCST9 induced autophagy in macrophages via the regulation of the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling pathways. rCST9 promoted the upregulation of macrophage proteins involved in antiinflammation and antiapoptosis, while restraining proinflammatory-associated proteins. Interestingly, the viability and virulence of S4 also was decreased directly by rCST9. In a mouse model of Ft inhalation, rCST9 significantly decreased organ bacterial burden and improved survival, which was not accompanied by excessive cytokine secretion or subsequent immune cell migration. The current report is the first to show the immunomodulatory and antimicrobial functions of rCST9 against Ft. We hypothesize that the attenuation of inflammation by rCST9 may be exploited for therapeutic purposes during infection.
Leishmaniasis is a complex disease that is caused by parasites of the Leishmania genus. Leishmania are further classified into several complexes, each of which can engage in distinct interactions with mammalian hosts resulting in differing disease presentations. It is therefore not unexpected that host immune responses to Leishmania are variable. The induction of interferon gamma (IFN-γ) and response to it in these infections has received considerable attention. In this review, we summarize our current understanding of some of the host responses during Leishmania infections that are regulated by IFN-γ. In addition, studies that explore the nature of parasite-derived molecular mediators that might affect the host response to IFN-γ are also discussed.
leishmania immunology; cytokines and leishmania; chemokines and leishmania; signal transduction in infection; interferon gamma and leishmania
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infects approximately 130 million people worldwide. The clinical sequelae of this chronic disease include cirrhosis, functional failure and carcinoma of the liver. HCV induces autophagy, a fundamental cellular process for maintaining homeostasis and mediating innate immune response, and also inhibits autophagic protein degradation and suppresses antiviral immunity. In addition to this ploy, the HCV serine protease composed of the viral nonstructural proteins 3/4A (NS3/4A) can enzymatically digest two cellular proteins, mitochondria-associated antiviral signaling protein (MAVS) and toll/interleukin-1 receptor domain containing adaptor inducing IFNβ (TRIF). Since these two proteins are the adaptor molecules in the retinoic acid-inducible gene I (RIG-I) and TLR3 pathways, respectively, their cleavage has been suggested as a pivotal mechanism by which HCV blunts the IFNα/β signaling and antiviral responses. Thus far, how HCV perturbs autophagy and copes with IFNα/β in the liver remains unclear.
autophagy; hepatitis C virus; liver disease; NS3/4A protease; RIG-I; Type I interferon; TLR3; transgenic mouse
Lassa virus (LASV) is the causative agent of Lassa hemorrhagic fever (LF) in humans, a deadly disease endemic to West Africa that results in 5,000 to 10,000 deaths annually. Here we present results demonstrating that functional type I and type II interferon (IFN) signaling is required for efficient control of LASV dissemination and clearance.
BACKGROUND & AIMS
The hepatitis C virus (HCV) serine protease NS3/4A can cleave mitochondria-associated, anti-viral signaling protein (MAVS) and block retinoic acid-inducible gene I–mediated interferon (IFN) responses. Although this mechanism is thought to have an important role in HCV-mediated innate immunosuppression, its significance in viral persistence is not clear.
We generated transgenic mice that express the HCV NS3/4A proteins specifically in the liver and challenged the animals with a recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV), a synthetic HCV genome, IFN-α, or IFN-β. We evaluated the effects of HCV serine protease on the innate immune responses and their interactions.
Expression of HCV NS3/4A resulted in cleavage of intrahepatic MAVS; challenge of transgenic mice with VSV or a synthetic HCV genome induced strong, type I IFN-mediated responses that were not significantly lower than those of control mice. Different challenge agents induced production of different ratios of IFN-α and -β, resulting in different autophagic responses and vesicular trafficking patterns of endoplasmic reticulum- and mitochondria-associated viral proteins. IFN-β promoted degradation of the viral proteins by the autolysosome. Variant isoforms of MAVS were associated with distinct, type I IFN-mediated autophagic responses; these responses have a role in trafficking of viral components to endosomal compartments that contain toll-like receptor -3.
IFN-β-mediates a distinct autophagic mechanism of anti-viral host defense. MAVS have an important role in type I IFN-induced autophagic trafficking of viral proteins.
Autophagy; TLR3; liver disease; RIG-I
Diffuse cutaneous leishmaniasis (DCL) is a rare clinical manifestation of leishmaniasis, characterized by an inefficient parasite-specific cellular response and heavily parasitized macrophages. In Brazil, Leishmania (Leishmania) amazonensis is the main species involved in DCL cases. In the experimental model, recognition of phosphatidylserine (PS) molecules exposed on the surface of amastigotes forms of L. amazonensis inhibits the inflammatory response of infected macrophages as a strategy to evade the host immune surveillance. In this study, we examined whether PS exposure on L. amazonensis isolates from DCL patients operated as a parasite pathogenic factor and as a putative suppression mechanism of immune response during the infection. Peritoneal macrophages from F1 mice (BALB/c×C57BL/6) were infected with different L. amazonensis isolates from patients with localized cutaneous leishmaniasis (LCL) or DCL. DCL isolates showed higher PS exposure than their counterparts from LCL patients. In addition, PS exposure was positively correlated with clinical parameters of the human infection (number of lesions and time of disease) and with characteristics of the experimental infection (macrophage infection and anti-inflammatory cytokine induction). Furthermore, parasites isolated from DCL patients displayed an increased area in parasitophorous vacuoles (PV) when compared to those isolated from LCL patients. Thus, this study shows for the first time that a parasite factor (exposed PS) might be associated with parasite survival/persistence in macrophages and lesion exacerbation during the course of DCL, providing new insights regarding pathogenic mechanism in this rare chronic disease.
The healthy adult human liver expresses low levels of MHC II and undetectable levels of immune co-stimulatory molecules. However, high levels of MHC class II, CD40 and B7 family molecules are expressed in the activated Kupffer cells and hepatocytes of patients having viral hepatitis. The precise role of these molecules in viral clearance and immune-mediated liver injury is not well understood. We hypothesize that parenchymal CD40 expression enhances T-cell recruitment and effector functions, which may facilitate viral clearance and alleviate liver injury. To test this hypothesis, we generated novel, liver-specific, conditional CD40 transgenic mice, and challenged them i.v. with recombinant replication-deficient adenovirus carrying Cre recombinase (AdCre). Wild-type mice infected with AdCre developed a relatively mild course of viral hepatitis and recovered spontaneously. CD40 expression in the liver of transgenic animals, however, resulted in CD80 and CD86 expression. Dysregulation of population dynamics and effector functions of intrahepatic lymphocytes results in severe lymphocytic infiltration, apoptosis, necroinflammation, and serum alanine transferase (ALT) elevation in a dose-dependent fashion. To our surprise, an early expansion followed by a contraction of intrahepatic lymphocytes, especially CD8+ and NK cells, accompanied by increased granzyme B and IFN-γ production, did not lead to a faster viral clearance in CD40 transgenic mice. Conclusion: Our results demonstrated that hepatic CD40 expression does not accelerate adenoviral clearance, but rather exacerbates liver injury. This study unveils a previously unknown deleterious effect of hepatic CD40 in adenovirus-induced liver inflammation.
liver; animal models; T lymphocytes and co-stimulation
Due to its strong immune stimulatory effects through TLR9, CpG-containing oligodeoxynucleotides (CpG ODN) have been tested in multiple clinical trials as vaccine adjuvant for infectious diseases and cancer. However, immune suppression induced by systemic administration of CpGs has been reported recently. In this study, we evaluated the impact of CpGs in an acute rickettsiosis model. We found that systemic treatment with type B CpG (CpG-B), but not type A CpG (CpG-A), at 2 days after sublethal R. australis infection induced mouse death. Although wild-type (WT) B6 and IDO−/− mice showed similar survival rates with three different doses of R. australis infection, treatment with CpG-B after sublethal infection consistently induced higher mortality with greater tissue bacterial loads in WT but not IDO−/− mice. Also, CpG-B treatment promoted the development of higher serum concentrations of proinflammatory cytokines/chemokines through IDO. Furthermore, while T cell-mediated immune responses enhanced by CpG-B were independent of IDO, treatment with CpG-B promoted T cell activation, PD-1 expression and cell apoptosis partially through IDO. A depletion study using anti-mPDCA-1 mAb indicated that plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDC) were not required for CpG-B-induced death of R. australis-infected mice. Additionally, the results in iNOS−/− mice suggested that nitric oxide (NO) was partially involved in CpG-B-induced death of R. australis-infected mice. Surprisingly, pre-treatment with CpG-B before administration of a lethal dose of R. australis provided effective immunity in WT, IDO−/− and iNOS−/− mice. Taken together, our study provides evidence that CpGs exert complex immunological effects by both IDO-dependent and -independent mechanisms, and that systemic treatment with CpGs before or after infection has a significant and distinct impact on disease outcomes.
Leishmania parasites alternate between flagellated promastigotes in sand flies and nonflagellated amastigotes in mammals, causing a spectrum of serious diseases. To survive, they must resist the harsh conditions in phagocytes (including acidic pH, elevated temperature, and increased oxidative/nitrosative stress) and evade the immune response. Recent studies have highlighted the importance of sphingolipid (SL) metabolism in Leishmania virulence. In particular, we have generated a Leishmania major iscl− mutant which is deficient in SL degradation but grows normally as promastigotes in culture. Importantly, iscl− mutants cannot induce pathology in either immunocompetent or immunodeficient mice yet are able to persist at low levels. In this study, we investigated how the degradation of SLs might contribute to Leishmania infection. First, unlike wild-type (WT) L. major, iscl− mutants do not trigger polarized T cell responses in mice. Second, like WT parasites, iscl− mutants possess the ability to downregulate macrophage activation by suppressing the production of interleukin-12 (IL-12) and nitric oxide. Third, during the stationary phase, iscl− promastigotes were extremely vulnerable to acidic pH but not to other adverse conditions, such as elevated temperature and oxidative/nitrosative stress. In addition, inhibition of phagosomal acidification significantly improved iscl− survival in murine macrophages. Together, these findings indicate that SL degradation by Leishmania is essential for its adaption to the acidic environment in phagolysosomes but is not required for the suppression of host cell activation. Finally, our studies with iscl− mutant-infected mice suggest that having viable, persistent parasites is not sufficient to provide immunity against virulent Leishmania challenge.
Infection with Leishmania amazonensis and other members of the Leishmania mexicana complex can lead to diverse clinical manifestations, some of which are relatively difficult to control, even with standard chemotherapy. Diffuse cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL) is a rare but severe form, and its clinical hallmark is excessive parasitic growth in infected cells accompanied by profound impairments in host immune responses to the parasites. Since these parasites also cause non-healing CL in most inbred strains of mice, these animals are valuable models for dissecting the mechanisms of persistent infection and disease pathogenesis. In comparison to other Leishmania species, L. amazonensis infections are most remarkable for their ability to repress the activation and effector functions of macrophages, dendritic cells, and CD4+ T cells, implying discrete mechanisms at work. In addition to this multilateral suppression of host innate and adaptive immunity, the activation of types I and II interferon-mediated responses and autophagic/lipid metabolic pathways actually promotes rather than restrains L. amazonensis infection. These seemingly contradictory findings reflect the remarkable adaptation of the parasites to the ancient defense machinery of the host, as well as the complex parasite–host interactions at different stages of infection, which collectively contribute to non-healing leishmaniasis in the New World. This review article highlights new evidence that reveals the strategies utilized by L. amazonensis parasites to subvert or modulate host innate defense machinery in neutrophils and macrophages, as well as the regulatory roles of host innate responses in promoting parasite survival and replication within the huge parasitophorous vacuoles. A better understanding of unique features in host responses to these parasites at early and late stages of infection is important for the rational design of control strategies for non-healing leishmaniasis.
Leishmania amazonensis; innate immunity; parasite adaptation; immunopathogenesis
Recent studies have shown that histone proteins can act as antimicrobial peptides in host defense against extracellular bacteria, fungi, and Leishmania promastigotes. In this study, we used human recombinant histone proteins to further study their leishmaniacidal effects and the underlying mechanisms. We found that the histones H2A and H2B (but not H10) could directly and efficiently kill promastigotes of Leishmania amazonensis, L. major, L. braziliensis, and L. mexicana in a treatment dose-dependent manner. Scanning electron microscopy revealed surface disruption of histone-treated promastigotes. More importantly, the preexposure of promastigotes to histone proteins markedly decreased the infectivity of promastigotes to murine macrophages (Mφs) in vitro. However, axenic and lesion-derived amastigotes of L. amazonensis and L. mexicana were relatively resistant to histone treatment, which correlated with the low levels of intracellular H2A in treated amastigotes. To understand the mechanisms underlying these differential responses, we investigated the role of promastigote surface molecules in histone-mediated killing. Compared with the corresponding controls, transgenic L. amazonensis promastigotes expressing lower levels of surface gp63 proteins were more susceptible to histone H2A, while L. major and L. mexicana promastigotes with targeted deletion of the lipophosphoglycan 2 (lpg2) gene (but not the lpg1 gene) were more resistant to histone H2A. We discuss the influence of promastigote major surface molecules in the leishmaniacidal effect of histone proteins. This study provides new information on host innate immunity to different developmental stages of Leishmania parasites.
γδ T cells are important for the early control of West Nile virus (WNV) dissemination. Here, we investigated the role of γδ T cells in regulation of CD4+ T cell response following WNV challenge. Splenic dendritic cells (DCs) of WNV-infected γδ T cell-deficient (TCRδ−/−) mice displayed lower levels of CD40, CD80, CD86 and major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II expression and interleukin-12 (IL-12) production than those of wild- type mice. Naïve DCs co-cultured with WNV-infectedγδ T cells had enhanced levels of co- stimulatory molecules, MHC class II expression and IL-12 production. Further, co-culture of CD4+ T cells from OT II transgenic mice with DCs of WNV-infected TCRδ−/− mice induced less interferon-γ (IFN-γ) and IL-2 production than with those of wild-type controls. Viral antigens were detected in WNV-infected γδ T cells. WNV infection or toll-like receptor (TLR) agonist treatment of γδ T cells induced the production of IFN-γ, tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) and IL-6, which were known to promote DC maturation. Nevertheless, levels of TLRs 2, 3, 4 and 7 expression of WNV-infected γδ T cells were not different from those of non-infected cells. Overall, these data suggest that WNV-inducedγδ T cell activation promotes DC maturation and initiates CD4+ T cell priming.
West Nile virus; Dendritic cell; γδ T cell
West Nile virus (WNV) is transmitted during mosquito bloodfeeding. Consequently, the first vertebrate cells to contact WNV are cells in the skin, followed by those in the draining lymph node. Macrophages and dendritic cells are critical early responders in host defense against WNV infection, not just because of their role in orchestrating the immune response, but also because of their importance as sites of early peripheral viral replication. Antigen-presenting cell (APC) signals have a profound effect on host antiviral responses and disease severity. During transmission, WNV is intimately associated with mosquito saliva. Due to the ability of mosquito saliva to affect inflammation and immune responses, and the importance of understanding early events in WNV infection, we investigated whether mosquito saliva alters APC signaling during arbovirus infection, and if alterations in cell recruitment occur when WNV infection is initiated with mosquito saliva. Accordingly, experiments were performed with cultured dendritic cells and macrophages, flow cytometry was used to characterize infiltrating cell types in the skin and lymph nodes during early infection, and real-time RT-PCR was employed to evaluate virus and cytokine levels. Our in vitro results suggest that mosquito saliva significantly decreases the expression of interferon-β and inducible nitric oxide synthase in macrophages (by as much as 50 and 70%, respectively), whilst transiently enhancing interleukin-10 (IL-10) expression. In vivo results indicate that the predominate effect of mosquito feeding is to significantly reduce the recruitment of T cells, leading the inoculation site of mice exposed to WNV alone to have up to 2.8 fold more t cells as mice infected in the presence of mosquito saliva. These shifts in cell population are associated with significantly elevated IL-10 and WNV (up to 4.0 and 10 fold, respectively) in the skin and draining lymph nodes. These results suggest that mosquito saliva dysregulates APC antiviral signaling, and reveal a possible mechanism for the observed enhancement of WNV disease mediated by mosquito saliva via a reduction of T lymphocyte and antiviral activity at the inoculation site, an elevated abundance of susceptible cell types, and a concomitant increase in immunoregulatory activity of IL-10.
Leishmania (subgenus Viannia) braziliensis is the causative agent of mucocutaneous leishmaniasis (ML) in South America, and ML is characterized by excessive T- and B-cell responses to the parasite. We speculate that the unbalanced production of inflammatory mediators in response to L. braziliensis infection contributes to cell recruitment and disease severity. To test this hypothesis, we first examined the response of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from healthy volunteers to L. braziliensis infection. We observed that while L. braziliensis infection induced the production of chemokine (C-X-C motif) ligand 10 (CXCL10) and interleukin-10 (IL-10) in human PBMCs and macrophages (MΦs), enhanced expression of CXCL10 and its receptor, chemokine CXC receptor (CXCR3), was predominantly detected in CD14+ monocytes. The chemoattractant factors secreted by L. braziliensis-infected cells were highly efficient in recruiting uninfected PBMCs (predominantly CD14+ cells) through Transwell membranes. Serum samples from American tegumentary leishmaniasis (ATL) patients (especially the ML cases) had significantly higher levels of CXCL10, CCL4, and soluble tumor necrosis factor (TNF) receptor II (sTNFRII) than did those of control subjects. Our results suggest that, following L. braziliensis infection, the production of multiple inflammatory mediators by the host may contribute to disease severity by increasing cellular recruitment.
Although activation of CD4+ T cells mediates pathogenesis in Leishmania amazonensis (La)-infected mice, these susceptible mice do not develop a polarized Th2 response, suggesting a unique mechanism of disease susceptibility. To understand how Th cell activities are regulated, we examined the frequency and phenotypes of regulatory T (Treg) cells. At 1–3 wk of infection, relatively high percentages of CD4+CD25+CD86+ T cells, as well as high levels of FoxP3, TGF-β1, and IL-10RI transcripts, were detected in the skin and draining lymph nodes, indicating local accumulation of Treg cells. Lesion-derived, IL-10-producing CD4+CD25+ cells effectively suppressed proliferation and cytokine (IL-2 and IFN-γ) production of CD4+CD25− effector cells. Adoptive transfer of lesion-derived CD4+CD25+ cells to syngeneic, naive C57BL/6 mice before infection significantly reduced disease development. To further validate the beneficial role of Treg cells in La infection, we adoptively transferred CD25+ T cell-depleted splenocytes (derived from naive mice) into RAG1-/- mice. This transfer rendered RAG1-/- mice more susceptible to La infection than the mice receiving control splenocytes. The beneficial effect of Treg cells was transitory and correlated with decreased activation of IFN-γ-producing effector T cells. This study uncovers an intriguing role of Treg cells in restraining pathogenic responses during nonhealing Leishmania infection and emphasizes a balance between Treg and Th1-like effector cells in determining the outcome of New World cutaneous leishmaniasis.
Adoptive transfer of TLR4-stimulated dendritic cells induces protective immunity against an ordinarily lethal rickettsial challenge; however, the mechanism underlying this protection remains elusive. Therefore, we sought to determine the importance of TLR4 in early immunity to rickettsiae in vivo, particularly that conferred by TLR4-stimulated DC. Rickettsial growth proceeded logarithmically in mice lacking TLR4 function, whereas in TLR4-competent mice, rickettsial growth manifested a lag phase early, suggesting that TLR4 may initiate innate rickettsial immunity. TLR4-competent mice produced significant amounts of IFN-γ on day one of R. conorii infection, which was associated with significant expansion of activated NK cells. Moreover, NK cells from TLR4-competent mice produced significantly higher levels of IFN-γ and had greater cytotoxic activity than those from TLR4-deficient mice. Lastly, adoptive transfer of rickettsiae-exposed TLR4-stimulated DC activated NK cells in vivo. Together, these data reveal an important role for DC in recognizing rickettsiae through TLR4 and inducing early anti-rickettsial immunity.
dendritic cells; natural killer cells; Toll-like receptor 4; bacterial infection
We have previously reported that Leishmania braziliensis infection can activate murine dendritic cells (DCs) and upregulate signaling pathways that are essential for the initiation of innate immunity. However, it remains unclear whether Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are involved in L. braziliensis-mediated DC activation. To address this issue, we generated bone marrow-derived DCs from MyD88−/− and TLR2−/− mice and examined their responsiveness to parasite infection. While wild-type DCs were efficiently activated to produce cytokines and prime naïve CD4+ T cells, L. braziliensis-infected MyD88−/− DCs exhibited less activation and decreased production of interleukin-12 (IL-12) p40. Furthermore, MyD88−/− mice were more susceptible to infection in that they developed larger and prolonged lesions compared to those in control mice. In sharp contrast, the lack of TLR2 resulted in an enhanced DC activation and increased IL-12 p40 production after infection. As such, L. braziliensis-infected TLR2−/− DCs were more competent in priming naïve CD4+ T cells in vitro than were their controls, findings which correlated with an increased gamma interferon production in vivo and enhanced resistance to infection. Our results suggest that while MyD88 is indispensable for the generation of protective immunity to L. braziliensis, TLR2 seems to have a regulatory role during infection.
In eukaryotes, sphingolipids (SLs) are important membrane components and powerful signaling molecules. In Leishmania, the major group of SLs is inositol phosphorylceramide (IPC), which is common in yeast and Trypanosomatids but absent in mammals. In contrast, sphingomyelin is not synthesized by Leishmania but is abundant in mammals. In the promastigote stage in vitro, Leishmania use SL metabolism as a major pathway to produce ethanolamine (EtN), a metabolite essential for survival and differentiation from non-virulent procyclics to highly virulent metacyclics. To further probe SL metabolism, we identified a gene encoding a putative neutral sphingomyelinase (SMase) and/or IPC hydrolase (IPCase), designated ISCL (Inositol phosphoSphingolipid phospholipase C-Like). Despite the lack of sphingomyelin synthesis, L. major promastigotes exhibited a potent SMase activity which was abolished upon deletion of ISCL, and increased following over-expression by episomal complementation. ISCL-dependent activity with sphingomyelin was about 20 fold greater than that seen with IPC. Null mutants of ISCL (iscl−) showed modest accumulation of IPC, but grew and differentiated normally in vitro. Interestingly, iscl− mutants did not induce lesion pathology in the susceptible BALB/c mice, yet persisted indefinitely at low levels at the site of infection. Notably, the acute virulence of iscl− was completely restored by the expression of ISCL or heterologous mammalian or fungal SMases, but not by fungal proteins exhibiting only IPCase activity. Together, these findings strongly suggest that degradation of host-derived sphingomyelin plays a pivotal role in the proliferation of Leishmania in mammalian hosts and the manifestation of acute disease pathology.
Leishmania are obligate intracellular parasites responsible for a spectrum of diseases in humans ranging from self-healing skin lesions to deadly visceral infections. To survive, they must downregulate the microbicidal activity and scavenge nutrients from the host. Although Leishmania parasites do not synthesize sphingomyelin, which is an abundant lipid in mammals, they do possess the ability to hydrolyze sphingomyelin. This neutral sphingomyelinase (SMase) activity is dependent on an ISCL gene, which is also required for the degradation of inositol phosphorylceramide, the dominant sphingolipid in Leishmania. Deletion of ISCL in L. major led to a complete loss of SMase activity but no obvious defects in growth or differentiation in vitro. Remarkably, null mutants of ISCL failed to induce any detectable pathology in mammals yet were able to persist at low levels indefinitely. Such defect was completely reversed when a functional neutral SMase was introduced into the mutant. In total, our results suggest that degradation of host-derived sphingomyelin by Leishmania is essential for acute virulence. Further studies will elucidate the pivotal role of sphingolipid homeostasis in the molecular interaction between Leishmania parasites and their mammalian hosts.
CD4+CD25+ regulatory T (Treg) cells develop in the thymus and can suppress T cell proliferation, modulated by Foxp3 and cytokines; however, the relevance of CD44 in Treg cell development is less clear. To address this issue, we analyzed Foxp3 expression in CD44+ Treg cells by using multiple parameters, measured the levels of the immunoregulatory cytokine interleukin (IL)-10 in various thymocyte subsets, and determined the suppressor activity in different splenic Treg cell populations.
Within mouse thymocytes, we detected Treg cells with two novel phenotypes, namely the CD4+CD8-CD25+CD44+ and CD4+CD8-CD25+CD44- staining features. Additional multi-parameter analyses at the single-cell and molecular levels suggested to us that CD44 expression positively correlated with Foxp3 expression in thymocytes, the production of IL-10, and Treg activity in splenic CD4+CD25+ T cells. This suppressive effect of Treg cells on T cell proliferation could be blocked by using anti-IL-10 neutralizing antibodies. In addition, CD4+CD25+CD44+ Treg cells expressed higher levels of IL-10 and were more potent in suppressing effector T cell proliferation than were CD4+CD25+CD44- cells.
This study indicates the presence of two novel phenotypes of Treg cells in the thymus, the functional relevance of CD44 in defining Treg cell subsets, and the role of both IL-10 and Foxp3 in modulating the function of Treg cells.
This article was reviewed by Dr. M. Lenardo, Dr. L. Klein & G. Wirnsberger (nominated by Dr. JC Zungia-Pfluker), and Dr. E.M. Shevach.
We have previously reported a link between a deficient Th1 response to Leishmania amazonensis (La) parasites and profound impairments in the cytokine/chemokine network at early stages of the infection. To define the molecular basis of these deficiencies, we focused on early and intracellular events in La-infected dendritic cells (DCs) in this study. Compared with La promastigote-infected counterparts, amastigote-infected DCs were less mature and less potent as antigen-presenting cells (APC) as evidenced by the lower expression of CD40 and CD83, suppressed cytokine expression (IL-12p40 and IL-10), reduced effectiveness for priming CD4+ T cells from naïve or infected mice. Infection with La promastigotes, but not amastigotes, triggered transient expression of IL-12p40 by DC. Both forms of parasites markedly suppressed IL-12p40, IL-12p70, and IL-6 production and increased IL-10 production when DCs were treated with LPS, IFN-γ/LPS or IFN-α/LPS as positive stimuli. Of note, pre-infection of DCs with live amastigotes resulted in multiple alterations in innate signaling pathways, including degradation of STAT2, decreased phosphorylation of STAT1, 2, 3 and ERK1/2, and markedly reduced expression of interferon regulatory factor-1 (IRF-1) and IRF-8, some of which were partially reversed by pretreatment of parasites with proteasome or protease inhibitors. The impaired IL-12 production in infected DCs was not attributed to increased IL-10 production. Together, our data suggest that La parasites, especially in their intracellular forms, have evolved unique strategies to actively downregulate early innate signaling events, resulting in impaired DC function and Th1 activation.
Leishmania; protozoan parasites; DC; innate immune response; JAK/STAT
Leishmania (Viannia) braziliensis is the causative agent of cutaneous and mucosal leishmaniasis in South America, and the latter is a severe and disfiguring form of the disease. Our understanding of how L. braziliensis parasites interact with dendritic cells (DCs) is limited, partially due to the difficulty in generating axenic amastigotes. In this study, we successfully generated axenic amastigotes of L. braziliensis and used them to test the hypothesis that L. braziliensis infection efficiently triggers innate responses in DCs and the subsequent adaptive immune responses for parasite clearance. This study has revealed unique immunological features of L. braziliensis infection. Firstly, axenic amastigotes showed higher infectivity and the potential to stimulate C57BL/6 (B6) bone marrow-derived dendritic cells to produce IL-12p40 when compared with their promastigote counterparts. Both parasite-carrying and bystander DCs displayed an activated (CD11chighCD45RB-CD83+CD40+CD80+) phenotype. Secondly, L. braziliensis infection triggered transcription and phosphorylation of STAT molecules and IFN-stimulated gene 15 (ISG15). Finally, the self-healing of the infection in mice was correlated to the expansion of IFN-γ- and IL-17-producing CD4+ cells, suggesting the existence of active mechanisms to regulate local inflammation. Collectively, this study supports the view that innate responses at the DC level determine parasite-specific T cell responses and disease outcomes.
Mimicking mammalian apoptotic cells by exposing phosphatidylserine (PS) is a strategy used by virus and parasitic protozoa to escape host protective inflammatory responses. With Leishmania amazonensis (La), apoptotic mimicry is a prerogative of the intramacrophagic amastigote form of the parasite and is modulated by the host. Now we show that differently from what happens with amastigotes, promastigotes exposing PS are non-viable, non-infective cells, undergoing apoptotic death. As part of the normal metacyclogenic process occurring in axenic cultures and in the gut of sand fly vectors, a sub-population of metacyclic promastigotes exposes PS. Apoptotic death of the purified PS-positive (PSPOS) sub-population was confirmed by TUNEL staining and DNA laddering. Transmission electron microscopy revealed morphological alterations in PSPOS metacyclics such as DNA condensation, cytoplasm degradation and mitochondrion and kinetoplast destruction, both in in vitro cultures and in sand fly guts. TUNELPOS promastigotes were detected only in the anterior midgut to foregut boundary of infected sand flies. Interestingly, caspase inhibitors modulated parasite death and PS exposure, when added to parasite cultures in a specific time window. Efficient in vitro macrophage infections and in vivo lesions only occur when PSPOS and PS-negative (PSNEG) parasites were simultaneously added to the cell culture or inoculated in the mammalian host. The viable PSNEG promastigote was the infective form, as shown by following the fate of fluorescently labeled parasites, while the PSPOS apoptotic sub-population inhibited host macrophage inflammatory response. PS exposure and macrophage inhibition by a subpopulation of promastigotes is a different mechanism than the one previously described with amastigotes, where the entire population exposes PS. Both mechanisms co-exist and play a role in the transmission and development of the disease in case of infection by La. Since both processes confer selective advantages to the infective microorganism they justify the occurrence of apoptotic features in a unicellular pathogen.
The importance of the interaction between natural killer (NK) cells and dendritic cells (DCs) in the expansion of antiviral and antitumor immune responses is well-documented; however, limited information on DC-NK cell interaction during parasitic infections is available. Given that some Leishmania parasites are known to prevent or suppress DC activation, we developed a DC-NK cell coculture system to examine the role of NK cells in modulating the functions of Leishmania-infected DCs. We found that the addition of freshly isolated, resting NK cells significantly promoted the activation of DCs that were preinfected with Leishmania amazonensis promastigotes and that these activated DCs, in turn, stimulated NK cell activation mostly via cell contact-dependent mechanisms. Notably, L. amazonensis amastigote infection failed to activate DCs, and this lack of DC activation could be partially reversed by the addition of preactivated NK (ANK) cells but not resting NK cells. Moreover, the adoptive transfer of ANK cells into L. amazonensis-infected mice markedly increased DC and T-cell activation and reduced tissue parasite loads at 1 and 3 weeks postinfection. These results suggest differential roles of DC-NK cell cross talk at different stages of Leishmania infection and provide new insight into the interplay of components of the innate immune system during parasitic infection.
The interactions between Leishmania parasites and dendritic cells (DCs) are complex and involve paradoxical functions that can stimulate or halt T cell responses, leading to the control of infection or progression of disease. The magnitude and profile of DC activation vary greatly, depending upon the Leishmania species/strains, developmental stages, DC subsets, serum opsonization, and exogenous DC stimuli involved in the study. In general, the uptake of Leishmania parasites alone can trigger relatively weak and transient DC activation; however, the intracellular parasites (amastigotes) are capable of down-modulating LPS/IFN-γ-stimulated DC activation via multiple mechanisms. This review will highlight current data regarding the initial interaction of DC subsets with invading parasites, the alterations of DC signaling pathways and function by amastigotes, and the impact of DC functions on protective immunity and disease pathogenesis. Available information provides insight into the mechanisms by which DCs discriminate between the types of pathogens and regulate appropriate immune responses.