Leishmania expressed lipophosphoglycan interacts with Toll-like receptor (TLR)-2 to decrease TLR-9 expression and reduce anti-leishmanial responses


Correspondence: B. Saha, National Centre for Cell Science, Ganeshkhind, Pune 411007, India.

E-mail: sahab@nccs.res.in


Two different Toll-like receptors (TLRs) have been shown to play a role in host responses to Leishmania infection. TLR-2 is involved in parasite survival in macrophages upon activation by lipophosphoglycan (LPG), a virulence factor expressed by Leishmania. In contrast, activation of TLR-9 has been shown to promote a host-protective response. However, whether there is a relationship between the interaction of LPG and TLR-2, on one hand, with the effect of TLR-9, on the other hand, remains unknown. In this study, we report that in-vitro infection of macrophages with a L. major parasite with high expression levels of LPG results in decreased TLR-9 expression compared to infection with a L. major parasite with lower expression levels of LPG. Addition of anti-LPG as well as anti-TLR-2 antibodies prevents this reduction of TLR-9 expression. Also, the addition of purified LPG to macrophages results in a decrease of TLR-9 expression, which is shown to be mediated by transforming growth factor (TGF)-β and interleukin (IL)-10. Finally, in-vitro treatment of macrophages with anti-LPG and/or anti-TLR-2 antibodies before infection reduces the number of amastigotes in macrophages and co-treatment of mice with anti-TLR-2 antibodies and cytosine–phosphate–guanosine (CpG) reduces footpad swelling and parasite load in the draining lymph nodes, accompanied by an interferon (IFN)-γ-predominant T cell response. Thus, for the first time, we show how interactions between LPG and TLR-2 reduce anti-leishmanial responses via cytokine-mediated decrease of TLR-9 expression.