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J Exp Med. 2000 Jun 19;191(12):2121-30.

Fibroblasts as host cells in latent leishmaniosis.

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Institute of Clinical Microbiology, Department of Anatomy, University of Erlangen, D-91054 Erlangen, Germany.


Intracellular parasites are known to persist lifelong in mammalian hosts after the clinical cure of the disease, but the mechanisms of persistence are poorly understood. Here, we show by confocal laser microscopy that in the draining lymph nodes of mice that had healed a cutaneous infection with Leishmania major, 40% of the persisting parasites were associated with fibroblasts forming the reticular meshwork of the lymph nodes. In vitro, both promastigotes and amastigotes of L. major infected primary skin or lymph node fibroblasts. Compared with macrophages, cytokine-activated fibroblasts had a reduced ability to express type 2 nitric oxide synthase and to kill intracellular L. major. These data identify fibroblasts as an important host cell for Leishmania during the chronic phase of infection and suggest that they might serve as safe targets for the parasites in clinically latent disease.

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