Send to

Choose Destination
J Exp Med. 2013 Feb 11;210(2):401-16. doi: 10.1084/jem.20121368. Epub 2013 Feb 4.

Iron uptake controls the generation of Leishmania infective forms through regulation of ROS levels.

Author information

Department of Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, USA.


During its life cycle, Leishmania undergoes extreme environmental changes, alternating between insect vectors and vertebrate hosts. Elevated temperature and decreased pH, conditions encountered after macrophage invasion, can induce axenic differentiation of avirulent promastigotes into virulent amastigotes. Here we show that iron uptake is a major trigger for the differentiation of Leishmania amazonensis amastigotes, independently of temperature and pH changes. We found that iron depletion from the culture medium triggered expression of the ferrous iron transporter LIT1 (Leishmania iron transporter 1), an increase in iron content of the parasites, growth arrest, and differentiation of wild-type (WT) promastigotes into infective amastigotes. In contrast, LIT1-null promastigotes showed reduced intracellular iron content and sustained growth in iron-poor media, followed by cell death. LIT1 up-regulation also increased iron superoxide dismutase (FeSOD) activity in WT but not in LIT1-null parasites. Notably, the superoxide-generating drug menadione or H(2)O(2) was sufficient to trigger differentiation of WT promastigotes into fully infective amastigotes. LIT1-null promastigotes accumulated superoxide radicals and initiated amastigote differentiation after exposure to H(2)O(2) but not to menadione. Our results reveal a novel role for FeSOD activity and reactive oxygen species in orchestrating the differentiation of virulent Leishmania amastigotes in a process regulated by iron availability.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for HighWire Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center