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J Immunol. 2013 Apr 1;190(7):3380-9. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1202537. Epub 2013 Mar 4.

Parasite-derived arginase influences secondary anti-Leishmania immunity by regulating programmed cell death-1-mediated CD4+ T cell exhaustion.

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Department of Immunology, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba R3E 0T5, Canada.


The breakdown of L-arginine to ornithine and urea by host arginase supports Leishmania proliferation in macrophages. Studies using arginase-null mutants show that Leishmania-derived arginase plays an important role in disease pathogenesis. We investigated the role of parasite-derived arginase in secondary (memory) anti-Leishmania immunity in the resistant C57BL/6 mice. We found that C57BL/6 mice infected with arginase-deficient (arg(-)) L. major failed to completely resolve their lesion and maintained chronic pathology after 16 wk, a time when the lesion induced by wild-type L. major is completely resolved. This chronic disease was associated with impaired Ag-specific proliferation and IFN-γ production, a concomitant increase in programmed cell death-1 (PD-1) expression on CD4(+) T cells, and failure to induce protection against secondary L. major challenge. Treatment with anti-PD-1 mAb restored T cell proliferation and IFN-γ production in vitro and led to complete resolution of chronic lesion in arg(-) L. major-infected mice. These results show that infection with arg(-) L. major results in chronic disease due in part to PD-1-mediated clonal exhaustion of T cells, suggesting that parasite-derived arginase contributes to the overall quality of the host immune response and subsequent disease outcome in L. major-infected mice. They also indicate that persistent parasites alone do not regulate the quality of secondary anti-Leishmania immunity in mice and that the quality of the primary immune response may be playing a hitherto unrecognized dominant role in this process.

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