PloS one

Host modulation by a parasite: how Leishmania infantum modifies the intestinal environment of Lutzomyia longipalpis to favor its development.

PMID 25365351


Some reports have described the interference of Leishmania on sand flies physiology, and such behavior most likely evolved to favor the development and transmission of the parasite. Most of these studies showed that Leishmania could modulate the level of proteases in the midgut after an infective blood meal, and decreased proteolytic activity is indeed beneficial for the development of promastigotes in the gut of sand flies. In the present study, we performed a detailed investigation of the intestinal pH in Lutzomyia longipalpis females naturally infected with Leishmania infantum and investigated the production of trypsin by these insects using different approaches. Our results allowed us to propose a mechanism by which these parasites interfere with the physiology of L. longipalpis to decrease the production of proteolytic enzymes. According to our hypothesis L. infantum promastigotes indirectly interfere with the production of trypsin by modulating the mechanism that controls the intestinal pH via the action of a yet non-identified substance released by promastigote forms inside the midgut. This substance is not an acid, whose action would be restrict on to release H+ to the medium, but is a substance that is able to interfere with midgut physiology through a mechanism involving pH control. According to our hypothesis, as the pH decreases, the proteolytic enzymes efficiency is also reduced, leading to a decline in the supply of amino acids to the enterocytes: this decline reduces the stimulus for protease production because it is regulated by the supply of amino acids, thus leading to a delay in digestion.