Background: Leishmania parasites are transmitted in the presence of sand fly saliva. Together with the parasite, the sand fly injects biologically active salivary components that favorably change the environment at the feeding site. Exposure to bites or to salivary proteins results in immunity specific to these components. Mice immunized with Phlebotomus papatasi salivary gland homogenate (SGH) or pre-exposed to uninfected bites were protected against Leishmania major infection delivered by needle inoculation with SGH or by infected sand fly bites. Immunization with individual salivary proteins of two sand fly species protected mice from L. major infection. Here, we analyze the immune response to distinct salivary proteins from P. papatasi that produced contrasting outcomes of L. major infection.
Methodology/principal findings: DNA immunization with distinct DTH-inducing salivary proteins from P. papatasi modulates L. major infection. PpSP15-immunized mice (PpSP15-mice) show lasting protection while PpSP44-immunized mice (PpSP44-mice) aggravate the infection, suggesting that immunization with these distinct molecules alters the course of anti-Leishmania immunity. Two weeks post-infection, 31.5% of CD4(+) T cells produced IFN-gamma in PpSP15-mice compared to 7.1% in PpSP44-mice. Moreover, IL-4-producing cells were 3-fold higher in PpSP44-mice. At an earlier time point of two hours after challenge with SGH and L. major, the expression profile of PpSP15-mice showed over 3-fold higher IFN-gamma and IL-12-Rbeta2 and 20-fold lower IL-4 expression relative to PpSP44-mice, suggesting that salivary proteins differentially prime anti-Leishmania immunity. This immune response is inducible by sand fly bites where PpSP15-mice showed a 3-fold higher IFN-gamma and a 5-fold lower IL-4 expression compared with PpSP44-mice.
Conclusions/significance: Immunization with two salivary proteins from P. papatasi, PpSP15 and PpSP44, produced distinct immune profiles that correlated with resistance or susceptibility to Leishmania infection. The demonstration for the first time that immunity to a defined salivary protein (PpSP44) results in disease enhancement stresses the importance of the proper selection of vector-based vaccine candidates.