The murine model of infection with Leishmania major and its importance for the deciphering of mechanisms underlying differences in Th cell differentiation in mice from different genetic backgrounds

Int J Parasitol. 2004 Mar 29;34(4):433-44. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpara.2003.11.021.


Mice from the majority of inbred strains are resistant to infection by Leishmania major, an obligate intracellular protozoan parasite of macrophages in the mammalian host. In contrast, mice from BALB strains are unable to control infection and develop progressive disease. In this model of infection, genetically determined resistance and susceptibility have been clearly shown to result from the appearance of parasite-specific CD4+ T helper 1 or T helper 2 cells, respectively. This murine model of infection is considered as one of the best experimental systems for the study of the mechanisms operating in vivo at the initiation of polarised T helper 1 and T helper 2 cell maturation. Among the several factors influencing Th cell development, cytokines themselves critically regulate this process. The results accumulated during the last years have clarified some aspects of the role played by cytokines in Th cell differentiation. They are providing critical information that may ultimately lead to the rational devise of means by which to tailor immune responses to the effector functions that are most efficient in preventing and/or controlling infections with pathogens.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cytokines / immunology
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Leishmania major*
  • Leishmaniasis, Cutaneous / genetics
  • Leishmaniasis, Cutaneous / immunology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C*
  • Models, Animal*
  • Species Specificity
  • Th1 Cells / immunology*
  • Th2 Cells / immunology*


  • Cytokines