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Infect Immun. 2008 May;76(5):2138-48. doi: 10.1128/IAI.01252-07. Epub 2008 Mar 3.

Leishmania major infection activates NF-kappaB and interferon regulatory factors 1 and 8 in human dendritic cells.

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  • 1Center for Global Health and Infectious Diseases, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556, USA.


The salient feature of dendritic cells (DC) is the initiation of appropriate adaptive immune responses by discriminating between pathogens. Using a prototypic model of intracellular infection, we previously showed that Leishmania major parasites prime human DC for efficient interleukin-12 (IL-12) secretion. L. major infection is associated with self-limiting cutaneous disease and powerful immunity. In stark contrast, the causative agent of visceral leishmaniasis, Leishmania donovani, does not prime human DC for IL-12 production. Here, we report that DC priming by L. major infection results in the early activation of NF-kappaB transcription factors and the up-regulation and nuclear translocation of interferon regulatory factor 1 (IRF-1) and IRF-8. The inhibition of NF-kappaB activation by the pretreatment of DC with caffeic acid phenethyl ester blocks L. major-induced IRF-1 and IRF-8 activation and IL-12 expression. We further demonstrate that IRF-1 and IRF-8 obtained from L. major-infected human DC specifically bind to their consensus binding sites on the IL-12p35 promoter, indicating that L. major infection either directly stimulates a signaling cascade or induces an autocrine pathway that activates IRF-1 and IRF-8, ultimately resulting in IL-12 transcription.

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