The role of phosphoglycans in Leishmania-sand fly interactions

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2000 Jan 4;97(1):406-11. doi: 10.1073/pnas.97.1.406.


Leishmania promastigotes synthesize an abundance of phosphoglycans, either attached to the cell surface through phosphatidylinositol anchors (lipophosphoglycan, LPG) or secreted as protein-containing glycoconjugates. These phosphoglycans are thought to promote the survival of the parasite within both its vertebrate and invertebrate hosts. The relative contributions of different phosphoglycan-containing molecules in Leishmania-sand fly interactions were tested by using mutants specifically deficient in either total phosphoglycans or LPG alone. Leishmania donovani promastigotes deficient in both LPG and protein-linked phosphoglycans because of loss of LPG2 (encoding the Golgi GDP-Man transporter) failed to survive the hydrolytic environment within the early blood-fed midgut. In contrast, L. donovani and Leishmania major mutants deficient solely in LPG expression because of loss of LPG1 (involved in biosynthesis of the core oligosaccharide LPG domain) had only a slight reduction in the survival and growth of promastigotes within the early blood-fed midgut. The ability of the LPG1-deficient promastigotes to persist in the midgut after blood meal excretion was completely lost, and this defect was correlated with their inability to bind to midgut epithelial cells in vitro. For both mutants, when phosphoglycan expression was restored to wild-type levels by reintroduction of LPG1 or LPG2 (as appropriate), then the wild-type phenotype was also restored. We conclude, first, that LPG is not essential for survival in the early blood-fed midgut but, along with other secreted phosphoglycan-containing glycoconjugates, can protect promastigotes from the digestive enzymes in the gut and, second, that LPG is required to mediate midgut attachment and to maintain infection in the fly during excretion of the digested blood meal.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Agglutinins / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / immunology
  • Galactosyltransferases / deficiency
  • Galactosyltransferases / genetics
  • Galactosyltransferases / metabolism
  • Glycosphingolipids / deficiency
  • Glycosphingolipids / genetics
  • Glycosphingolipids / metabolism*
  • Golgi Apparatus / enzymology
  • Leishmania / genetics
  • Leishmania / metabolism*
  • Membrane Proteins / deficiency
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Mutation
  • Protozoan Proteins / genetics
  • Protozoan Proteins / metabolism
  • Psychodidae / metabolism*
  • Psychodidae / parasitology


  • Agglutinins
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Glycosphingolipids
  • LPG2 protein, Leishmania
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Protozoan Proteins
  • lipophosphonoglycan
  • Galactosyltransferases
  • LPG1 protein, Leishmania