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Logo of nihpaAbout Author manuscriptsSubmit a manuscriptNIH Public Access; Author Manuscript; Accepted for publication in peer reviewed journal;
J Immunol. Author manuscript; available in PMC Jun 15, 2009.
Published in final edited form as:
PMCID: PMC2668862
NIHMSID: NIHMS104653

A Leishmania Ortholog of Macrophage Migration Inhibitory Factor Modulates Host Macrophage Responses

Abstract

Parasitic organisms have evolved specialized strategies to evade immune defense mechanisms. We describe herein an ortholog of the cytokine, macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF), which is produced by the obligate intracellular parasite, Leishmania major. The Leishmania MIF protein, Lm1740MIF, shows significant structural homology with human MIF as revealed by a high-resolution x-ray crystal structure (1.03 Å). Differences between the two proteins in the N-terminal tautomerization site are evident, and we provide evidence for the selective, species-specific inhibition of MIF by small-molecule antagonists that target this site. Lm1740MIF shows significant binding interaction with the MIF receptor, CD74 (Kd = 2.9 × 10−8 M). Like its mammalian counterpart, Lm1740MIF induces ERK1/2 MAP kinase activation in a CD74-dependent manner and inhibits the activation-induced apoptosis of macrophages. The ability of Lm1740MIF to inhibit apoptosis may facilitate the persistence of Leishmania within the macrophage and contribute to its evasion from immune destruction.

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