Leishmania donovani causes human visceral leishmaniasis. The parasite infectious cycle comprises extracellular flagellated promastigotes that proliferate inside the insect vector, and intracellular nonmotile amastigotes that multiply within infected host cells. Using primary macrophages infected with virulent metacyclic promastigotes and high spatiotemporal resolution microscopy, we dissect the dynamics of the early infection process. We find that motile promastigotes enter macrophages in a polarized manner through their flagellar tip and are engulfed into host lysosomal compartments. Persistent intracellular flagellar activity leads to reorientation of the parasite flagellum toward the host cell periphery and results in oscillatory parasite movement. The latter is associated with local lysosomal exocytosis and host cell plasma membrane wounding. These findings implicate lysosome recruitment followed by lysosome exocytosis, consistent with parasite-driven host cell injury, as key cellular events in Leishmania host cell infection. This work highlights the role of promastigote polarity and motility during parasite entry.
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