DNA Immunization with the Gene Encoding P4 Nuclease of Leishmania amazonensis Protects Mice against Cutaneous Leishmaniasis

Kimberly Campbell, Hong Diao, Jiaxiang Ji, Lynn Soong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

50 Scopus citations


Infection with the protozoan parasite Leishmania amazonensis can cause diverse clinical forms of leishmaniasis. Immunization with purified P4 nuclease protein has been shown to elicit a protective response in mice challenged with L. amazonensis and L. pifanoi. To explore the potential of a DNA-based vaccine, we tested the L. amazonensis gene encoding P4 nuclease as well as adjuvant constructs encoding murine interleukin-12 (IL-12) and L. amazonensis HSP70. Susceptible BALB/c mice were immunized with the DNA encoding P4 alone, P4/IL-12, or P4/HSP70 prior to challenge with L. amazonensis promastigotes. Mice given P4/IL-12 exhibited no lesion development and had a 3- to 4-log reduction in tissue parasite burdens compared to controls. This protection corresponded to significant increases in gamma interferon and tumor necrosis factor alpha production and a reduction in parasite-specific immunoglobulin G1, suggesting an enhancement in Th1 responses. Moreover, we immunized mice with the L. amazonensis vaccines to determine if this vaccine regimen could provide cross-protection against a genetically diverse species, L. major. While the P4/HSP70 vaccine led to self-healing lesions, the P4/IL-12 vaccine provided negligible protection against L. major infection. This is the first report of successful use of a DNA vaccine to induce protection against L. amazonensis infection. Additionally, our results indicate that different vaccine combinations, including DNA encoding P4, HSP70, or IL-12, can provide significant protection against both Old World and New World cutaneous leishmaniasis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6270-6278
Number of pages9
JournalInfection and immunity
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases

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