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Leukocytes Infiltrate the Skin and Draining Lymph Nodes in Response to the Protozoan Leishmania infantum chagasi

Thalhofer, Colin J., Chen, Yani, Sudan, Bayan, Love-Homan, Laurie, Wilson, Mary E.
Infection and immunity 2011 v.79 no.1 pp. 108-117
Leishmania infantum, dermis, ears, flow cytometry, image analysis, inflammation, lymph nodes, macrophages, mice, natural killer cells, neutrophils, parasites, promastigotes, quantitative polymerase chain reaction, visceral leishmaniasis
The vector-borne protozoan Leishmania infantum chagasi causes minimal inflammation after inoculation into skin but disseminates to cause fatal visceral leishmaniasis. To define the inflammatory response at the parasite inoculation site, we introduced metacyclic L. infantum chagasi promastigotes intradermally into BALB/c mouse ears and studied inflammatory cells over 7 days. Ly6G⁺ neutrophils rapidly infiltrated the dermis, peaking after 6 to 24 h. Macrophages and NK cells next infiltrated the dermis, and NK followed by B cells expanded in draining lymph nodes. Parasite-containing phagocytes were tracked with fluorescent mCherry-labeled L. infantum chagasi. Ly6G⁺ neutrophils contained the greatest proportion of intracellular parasites 6 to 24 h after inoculation, whereas dermal macrophages harbored the majority of intracellular parasites after 2 to 7 days. These observations were validated microscopically. Low doses of antibody transiently depleted mice of neutrophils, leaving other cells intact. Combined results of in vivo imaging, flow cytometry, and quantitative PCR showed that neutrophil depletion slowed the clearance of extracellular (luciferase-positive) promastigotes during the first 24 h after inoculation yet decreased the numbers of leukocytes containing intracellular (mCherry-positive) parasites. From 3 days onward, total L. infantum chagasi-containing dermal leukocytes and total L. infantum chagasi parasites in draining lymph nodes were similar in both groups. Nonetheless, a second wave of L. infantum chagasi-containing neutrophils occurred 7 days after parasite inoculation into neutrophil-depleted mice, corresponding to the time of neutrophil recovery. Thus, neutrophils were recruited to the dermis even late after inoculation, and L. infantum chagasi trafficked through neutrophils in both neutrophil-depleted and control mice, albeit with different kinetics. Recruitment of neutrophils and transient parasite residence in neutrophils may play a role in nonulcerative forms of leishmaniasis.