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Cell Host Microbe. 2011 Apr 21;9(4):331-41. doi: 10.1016/j.chom.2011.03.008.

Leishmania repression of host translation through mTOR cleavage is required for parasite survival and infection.

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Department of Biochemistry and Goodman Cancer Center, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.


The protozoan parasite Leishmania alters the activity of its host cell, the macrophage. However, little is known about the effect of Leishmania infection on host protein synthesis. Here, we show that the Leishmania protease GP63 cleaves the mammalian/mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR), a serine/threonine kinase that regulates the translational repressor 4E-BP1. mTOR cleavage results in the inhibition of mTOR complex 1 (mTORC1) and concomitant activation of 4E-BP1 to promote Leishmania proliferation. Consistent with these results, pharmacological activation of 4E-BPs with rapamycin, results in a dramatic increase in parasite replication. In contrast, genetic deletion of 4E-BP1/2 reduces parasite load in macrophages ex vivo and decreases susceptibility to cutaneous leishmaniasis in vivo. The parasite resistant phenotype of 4E-BP1/2 double-knockout mice involves an enhanced type I IFN response. This study demonstrates that Leishmania evolved a survival mechanism by activating 4E-BPs, which serve as major targets for host translational control.

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