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The fate and persistence of Leishmania major in mice of different genetic backgrounds: an example of exploitation of the immune system by intracellular parasites.
Leishmania spp. are intracellular protozoan parasites that are delivered within the dermis of their vertebrate hosts. Within this peripheral tissue and the draining lymph node, they find and/or rapidly create dynamic microenvironments that determine their ultimate fate, namely their more or less successful expansion, and favour their transmission to another vertebrate host though a blood-feeding vector. Depending on their genetic characteristics as well as the genetic make-up of their hosts, once within the dermis Leishmania spp. very rapidly drive and maintain sustained T cell-dependent immune responses that arbitrate their ultimate fate within their hosts. The analysis of the parasitism exerted by Leishmania major in mice of different genetic backgrounds has allowed us to recognize some of the early and late mechanisms driven by this parasite that lead to either uncontrolled or restricted parasitism. Uncontrolled parasitism by Leishmania major characterizing mice from a few inbred strains (e.g. BALB/c) is associated with the expansion of parasite reactive Th2 CD4 lymphocytes and results from their rapid and sustained activity. In contrast, restricted parasitism characteristic of mice from the majority of inbred strains results from the development of a polarized parasite-specific Th1 CD4 response. This murine model of infection has already been and will continue to be particularly instrumental in dissecting the rules controlling the pathway of differentiation of T cells in vivo. In the long run, the understanding of these rules should contribute to the rational development of novel immunotherapeutic interventions against severe infectious diseases.
Animals, Cytokines/biosynthesis, Disease Models, Animal, Genetic Predisposition to Disease, Host-Parasite Interactions, Leishmania major/immunology, Leishmania major/pathogenicity, Leishmaniasis, Cutaneous/immunology, Leishmaniasis, Cutaneous/parasitology, Mice, Mice, Inbred Strains, T-Lymphocytes/immunology, Virulence
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