Some strains of the protozoan parasite Leishmania guyanensis (L.g) harbor a viral endosymbiont called Leishmania RNA virus 1 (LRV1). LRV1 recognition by TLR-3 increases parasite burden and lesion swelling in vivo. However, the mechanisms by which anti-viral innate immune responses affect parasitic infection are largely unknown. Upon investigating the mammalian host's response to LRV1, we found that miR-155 was singularly and strongly upregulated in macrophages infected with LRV1+ L.g when compared to LRV1- L.g. LRV1-driven miR-155 expression was dependent on TLR-3/TRIF signaling. Furthermore, LRV1-induced TLR-3 activation promoted parasite persistence by enhancing macrophage survival through Akt activation in a manner partially dependent on miR-155. Pharmacological inhibition of Akt resulted in a decrease in LRV1-mediated macrophage survival and consequently decreased parasite persistence. Consistent with these data, miR-155-deficient mice showed a drastic decrease in LRV1-induced disease severity, and lesional macrophages from these mice displayed reduced levels of Akt phosphorylation.
Keywords: Akt; Leishmania; Leishmania RNA virus; TLR-3; macrophage survival; miR-155.
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