• cutaneous leishmaniasis;
  • gp63;
  • human NK cells;
  • Leishmania;
  • proliferation


Natural killer (NK) cells contribute to immunity as the first line of defence in numerous infections by early cytokine secretion and cytotoxicity. In Leishmania infection, NK cells contribute with interferon-γ and may assist in directing the immune response towards T helper type 1, which is essential for successful control of the parasites. Thus, NK cells may play an important role in both resistance and control of the infection. However, during Leishmania infection NK cells show signs of suppression. To explore the reason for this suppression, we exposed naive and interleukin (IL)-2 activated NK cells directly to promastigotes of Leishmania major in vitro. As a rapid consequence of contact between naive NK cells and promastigotes, expression of NK cell receptors show significant changes. We identify one of the major surface molecules of promastigotes, glycoprotein (gp) 63, as an important agent for these suppressive effects by using promastigotes of a gp63ko strain of L. major. Furthermore, proliferation of IL-2-activated purified NK cells is suppressed after exposure to the wild-type but not to gp63ko promastigotes. However, gp63ko L. major induced no NK cell proliferation when NK cells were co-cultured with peripheral blood mononuclear cells populations such as CD14+ monocytes or T cells.