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Parasite. 2019;26:71. doi: 10.1051/parasite/2019071. Epub 2019 Dec 11.

Cell death in Leishmania.

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UMR PAM A, Valmis Team, 2 rue Angélique Ducoudray, BP 37013, 21070 Dijon Cedex, France.
Aix-Marseille University, CNRS, LISM, Institut de Microbiologie de la Méditerranée, 13402 Marseille Cedex 09, France.


in English, French

Leishmaniases still represent a global scourge and new therapeutic tools are necessary to replace the current expensive, difficult to administer treatments that induce numerous adverse effects and for which resistance is increasingly worrying. In this context, the particularly original organization of the Leishmania parasite in comparison to higher eukaryotes is a great advantage. It allows for the development of new, very specific, and thus non-cytotoxic treatments. Among these originalities, Leishmania cell death can be cited. Despite a classic pattern of apoptosis, key mammalian apoptotic proteins are not present in Leishmania, such as caspases, cell death receptors, and anti-apoptotic molecules. Recent studies have helped to develop a better understanding of parasite cell death, identifying new proteins or even new apoptotic pathways. This review provides an overview of the current knowledge on Leishmania cell death, describing its physiological roles and its phenotype, and discusses the involvement of various proteins: endonuclease G, metacaspase, aquaporin Li-BH3AQP, calpains, cysteine proteinase C, LmjHYD36 and Lmj.22.0600. From these data, potential apoptotic pathways are suggested. This review also offers tools to identify new Leishmania cell death effectors. Lastly, different approaches to use this knowledge for the development of new therapeutic tools are suggested: either inhibition of Leishmania cell death or activation of cell death for instance by treating cells with proteins or peptides involved in parasite death fused to a cell permeant peptide or encapsulated into a lipidic vector to target intra-macrophagic Leishmania cells.


Cell death; Leishmania; Pathways; Phenotype; Role

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