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Open Access Research article

Dual effect of Lutzomyia longipalpis saliva on Leishmania braziliensis infection is mediated by distinct saliva-induced cellular recruitment into BALB/c mice ear

Vanessa Carregaro1, Diego Luis Costa1, Claudia Brodskyn345, Aldina Maria Barral345, Manuel Barral-Netto345, Fernando Q Cunha12 and João Santana Silva1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biochemistry and Immunology, School of Medicine of Ribeirão Preto, University of São Paulo, Av Bandeirantes, 3900. Ribeirão Preto, São Paulo, Brazil

2 Department of Pharmacology, School of Medicine of Ribeirão Preto, University of São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil

3 Centro de Pesquisa Gonçalo Muniz, Fundação Oswaldo Cruz (FIOCRUZ), São Paulo, Brazil

4 School of Medicine, Federal University of Bahia, Salvador, Brazil

5 Institute of Immunological Research, Salvador, Brazil

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BMC Microbiology 2013, 13:102  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-13-102

Published: 8 May 2013



Leishmania parasites are transmitted to their vertebrate hosts by infected Phlebotomine sand flies during the blood meal of the flies. Sand fly saliva is known to enhance Leishmania spp. infection, while pre-exposure to saliva protects mice against parasitic infections. In this study, we investigated the initial inflammatory leucocyte composition induced by one or three inocula of salivary gland extract (SGE) from Lutzomyia longipalpis in the presence or absence of Leishmania braziliensis.


We demonstrated that inoculating SGE once (SGE-1X) or three times (SGE-3X), which represented a co-inoculation or a pre-exposure to saliva, respectively, resulted in different cellular infiltrate profiles. Whereas SGE-1X led to the recruitment of all leucocytes subtypes including CD4+ T cells, CD4+CD25+ T cells, dendritic cells, macrophages and neutrophils, the immune cell profile in the SGE-3X group differed dramatically, as CD4+ T cells, CD4+CD25+ T cells, dendritic cells, macrophages and neutrophils were decreased and CD8+ T cells were increased. The SGE-1X group did not show differences in the ear lesion size; however, the SGE-1X group harbored a higher number of parasites. On the other hand, the SGE-3X group demonstrated a protective effect against parasitic disease, as the parasite burden was lower even in the earlier stages of the infection, a period in which the SGE-1X group presented with larger and more severe lesions. These effects were also reflected in the cytokine profiles of both groups. Whereas the SGE-1X group presented with a substantial increase in IL-10 production, the SGE-3X group showed an increase in IFN-γ production in the draining lymph nodes. Analysis of the inflammatory cell populations present within the ear lesions, the SGE-1X group showed an increase in CD4+FOXP3+ cells, whereas the CD4+FOXP3+ population was reduced in the SGE-3X group. Moreover, CD4+ T cells and CD8+ T cells producing IFN-γ were highly detected in the ears of the SGE-3X mice prior to infection. In addition, upon treatment of SGE-3X mice with anti-IFN-γ monoclonal antibody, we observed a decrease in the protective effect of SGE-3X against L. braziliensis infection.


These results indicate that different inocula of Lutzomyia longipalpis salivary gland extract can markedly modify the cellular immune response, which is reflected in the pattern of susceptibility or resistance to Leishmania braziliensis infection.

Phlebotomines saliva; Lutzomyia longipalpis saliva; Leishmania braziliensis; Inflammatory leucocytes; Cytokines; Immunoregulation