Infection with the protozoan Leishmania donovani can cause serious visceral disease or subclinical infection in humans. To better understand the pathogenesis of this dichotomy, we have investigated the host cellular immune response to cutaneous or visceral infection in a murine model. Mice infected in the skin developed no detectable visceral parasitism, whereas intravenous inoculation resulted in hepatosplenomegaly and an increasing visceral parasite burden. Spleen cells from mice with locally controlled cutaneous infection showed strong parasite-specific proliferative and gamma interferon (IFN-γ) responses, but spleen cells from systemically infected mice were unresponsive to parasite antigens. The in situ expression of IFN-γ, interleukin-4 (IL-4), IL-10, IL-12, and inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) mRNAs was determined in the spleen, draining lymph node (LN), and cutaneous site of inoculation. There was considerably greater expression of IFN-γ and IL-12 p40 mRNAs in the LN draining a locally controlled cutaneous infection than in the spleen following systemic infection. Similarly, there was a high level of IFN-γ production by LN cells following subcutaneous infection but no IFN-γ production by spleen cells following systemic infection. Splenic IL-4 expression was transiently increased early after systemic infection, but splenic IL-10 transcripts increased throughout the course of visceral infection. IL-4 and IL-10 mRNAs were also increased in the LN following cutaneous infection. iNOS mRNA was detected earlier in the LN draining a cutaneous site of infection compared to the spleen following systemic challenge. Thus, locally controlled cutaneous infection was associated with antigen-specific spleen cell responsiveness and markedly increased levels of IFN-γ, IL-12, and iNOS mRNA in the draining LN. Progressive splenic parasitism was associated with an early IL-4 response, markedly increased IL-10 but minimal IL-12 expression, and delayed expression of iNOS.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Infectious Diseases