Exosome Secretion by the Parasitic Protozoan Leishmania within the Sand Fly Midgut

Cell Rep. 2015 Nov 3;13(5):957-67. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2015.09.058. Epub 2015 Oct 22.


Despite several studies describing the secretion of exosomes by Leishmania in vitro, observation of their formation and release in vivo has remained a major challenge. Herein, we show that Leishmania constitutively secretes exosomes within the lumen of the sand fly midgut through a mechanism homologous to the mammalian pathway. Through egestion experiments, we demonstrate that Leishmania exosomes are part of the sand fly inoculum and are co-egested with the parasite during the insect's bite, possibly influencing the host infectious process. Indeed, co-inoculation of mice footpads with L. major plus midgut-isolated or in-vitro-isolated L. major exosomes resulted in a significant increase in footpad swelling. Notably, co-injections produced exacerbated lesions through overinduction of inflammatory cytokines, in particular IL-17a. Our data indicate that Leishmania exosomes are an integral part of the parasite's infectious life cycle, and we propose to add these vesicles to the repertoire of virulence factors associated with vector-transmitted infections.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Exosomes / metabolism*
  • Intestines / parasitology*
  • Leishmania / metabolism
  • Leishmania / pathogenicity*
  • Leishmaniasis, Cutaneous / metabolism
  • Leishmaniasis, Cutaneous / parasitology
  • Leishmaniasis, Cutaneous / pathology
  • Mice
  • Psychodidae / parasitology*


  • Cytokines