Open Access Research article

Expression of Toll-like receptors 2 and 9 in cells of dog jejunum and colon naturally infected with Leishmania infantum

Maria M Figueiredo1, Izabela FG Amorim1, Aldair JW Pinto1, Vítor S Barbosa1, Lucélia de Jesus Pinheiro1, Beatriz Deoti2, Ana MC Faria3 and Wagner L Tafuri1*

Author Affiliations

1 Departamento de Patologia Geral, Faculdade de Medicina, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Avenida Antônio Carlos, Pampulha, 6627, Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil

2 Departamento de Cirurgia, Faculdade de Medicina, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Avenida Professor Alfredo Balena, 190, Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil

3 Departamento de Bioquímica e Imunologia, Instituto de Ciências Biológicas, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Avenida Antônio Carlos, Pampulha, 6627, Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil

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BMC Immunology 2013, 14:22  doi:10.1186/1471-2172-14-22

Published: 14 May 2013



Infection with parasite protozoa is a long-term health issue in tropical and subtropical regions throughout the world. The Toll-like receptor (TLR) signaling pathway is one of the first-responding defense systems against Leishmania. The aim of this study was to investigate the expression of TLR2 and TLR9 in jejunum and colon and its correlation with CD11c, CD11b, and CD14 receptors used as markers for dendritic cells and macrophages.


Twenty four dogs infected with Leishmania infantum were used in this study. Cytometry was carried out in lamina propria cells from jejunum and colon using markers for TLR2, TLR9, CD11b, CD11c and CD14.


Cellular inflammatory exudate was diffuse in the mucosa and submucosa, predominately comprising mononuclear cells: plasma cells, macrophages, and lymphocytes. Despite the parasite load, microscopy showed no erosion was evident in the epithelial mucosa layers. The colon harbored more parasites than the jejunum. Flow cytometry revealed higher frequency of TLR2+ and CD11c+ dendritic cells in the colon than in the jejunum. Conversely, TLR9-expressing cells were more frequent in jejunum. Moreover, frequency of macrophages (CD11b+ and CD14+) expressing simultaneity TLR9 were lower in the colon than in jejunum, while CD11c+ cells predominated in the colon. Despite of the negative ELISA serum results, IL-10 and TNF-α were higher in jejunum than colon of infected animals. However, IL-4 was higher in colon than jejunum of infected animals. A higher expression these cytokines were demonstrated in infected dogs compared to uninfected dogs.


There was no correlation between clinical signs and pathological changes and immunological and parasitological findings in the gastrointestinal tract in canine visceral leishmaniasis. However, jejunum showed a lower parasite load with increased frequency and expression of CD11b, TLR9, CD14/CD11b/TLR9 receptors and IL-10 and TNF-α cytokines. Conversely, the colon showed a higher parasite load along with increased frequency and expression of TLR2, CD11c receptors, and IL-4 cytokine. Thus, Leishmania infantum is able to interfere in jejunum increased expression of TLR2, TLR9, CD11b, CD14, CD14/CD11b/TLR9 receptors, IL-10, and TNF-α; and in colon increased expression of CD11c, TLR2, TLR9, CD11b, CD14 e, CD14/CD11b/TLR9 receptors, IL-10, and TNF-α.

Canine visceral leishmaniasis; Jejunum and colon; Toll-like receptors 2 and 9; Parasite burden; Leishmania infantum