The role of surface glycoconjugates in Leishmania midgut attachment examined by competitive binding assays and experimental development in sand flies

Parasitology. 2013 Jul;140(8):1026-32. doi: 10.1017/S0031182013000358. Epub 2013 Apr 23.


Binding of promastigotes to the sand fly midgut epithelium is regarded as an essential part of the Leishmania life cycle in the vector. Among Leishmania surface molecules putatively involved in attachment to the sand fly midgut, two GPI-anchored molecules are the most prominent: lipophosphoglycan (LPG) and promastigote surface protease gp63. In this work, we examined midgut attachment of Leishmania lines mutated in GPI-anchored molecules and compared results from 2 different techniques: in vivo development in sand flies and in vitro competitive binding assays using fluorescently labelled parasites. In combination with previous studies, our data provide additional support for (1) an LPG-independent parasite-binding mechanism of Leishmania major within the midgut of the permissive vector Phlebotomus perniciosus, and provide strong support for (2) the crucial role of L. major LPG in specific vector Phlebotomus papatasi, and (3) a role for Leishmania amazonensis gp63 in Lutzomyia longipalpis midgut binding. Moreover, our results suggest a critical role for GPI-anchored proteins and gp63 in Leishmania mexicana attachment to L. longipalpis midguts, as the wild type (WT) line accounted for over 99% of bound parasites.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Binding, Competitive
  • Digestive System / parasitology
  • Female
  • Galactosyltransferases / genetics
  • Galactosyltransferases / metabolism
  • Glycoconjugates / genetics
  • Glycoconjugates / metabolism*
  • Glycosphingolipids / genetics
  • Glycosphingolipids / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Insect Vectors / parasitology*
  • Leishmania / physiology*
  • Life Cycle Stages
  • Metalloendopeptidases / genetics
  • Metalloendopeptidases / metabolism
  • Mutation
  • Phlebotomus / parasitology
  • Protozoan Proteins / genetics
  • Protozoan Proteins / metabolism
  • Psychodidae / parasitology*


  • Glycoconjugates
  • Glycosphingolipids
  • Protozoan Proteins
  • lipophosphonoglycan
  • Galactosyltransferases
  • LPG1 protein, Leishmania
  • Metalloendopeptidases
  • glycoprotein gp63, Leishmania