Leishmania donovani: Evolution and architecture of the splenic cellular immune response related to control of infection

Peter C. Melby, Adriana Tabares, Blanca I. Restrepo, Astrid E. Cardona, H. Stan McGuff, Judy M. Teale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

39 Scopus citations


Infection with the protozoan Leishmania donovani in humans is usually subclinical. Parasites probably persist for the life of the host and the low-level infection is controlled by the cellular immune response. To better understand the mechanisms related to the control of infection, we studied the evolution and architecture of the splenic cellular immune response in a murine model that is most representative of human subclinical infection. Following systemic inoculation with L. donovani, the parasites were primarily localized to the macrophage-rich splenic red pulp. There was an initial increase in the numbers of T cells and dendritic cells in the periarteriolar lymphoid sheath and marginal zone, but the red pulp (where parasitized macrophages were prominent) remained free of these cells until later in the course of infection. Thus, T cells did not colocalize with parasitized red pulp macrophages until later in the course of infection. Early in the course of infection, IL-10 production within the marginal zone and TGF-β production by cells in the red pulp were prominent. These macrophage-inhibitory cytokines may contribute to the establishment of the infection and early parasite replication. By day 28 of infection, when the visceral parasite burden began to decline, the number of IL-10-producing spleen cells was back to the baseline level, but IFN-γ production was higher and the number of IL-12-producing cells was increased dramatically. At this time T cells and dendritic cells had moved out of the lymphoid follicle and marginal zone into the red pulp where the parasites were located. These findings therefore suggest that control of infection is associated with IFN-γ and IL-12 production and migration of T cells and dendritic cells to the site of chronic parasitism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17-25
Number of pages9
JournalExperimental Parasitology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2001
Externally publishedYes



  • Cytokines
  • Dendritic cells (DC)
  • Interferon-gamma (IFN-γ)
  • Interleukin (IL)
  • Intravenous (IV)
  • Leishmania donovani
  • Periarteriolar lymphoid sheath (PALS).
  • Protozoa
  • Subcutaneous (SC)
  • T cells
  • T helper 1 (Th1)
  • T helper 2 (Th2)
  • Transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-β)
  • Tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α)
  • Visceral leishmaniasis (VL)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases

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