Antileishmanial Drugs Modulate IL-12 Expression and Inflammasome Activation in Primary Human Cells

J Immunol. 2020 Apr 1;204(7):1869-1880. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1900590. Epub 2020 Mar 4.


Leishmaniases are neglected tropical diseases. The treatment of leishmaniasis relies exclusively on chemotherapy including amphotericin B (AmB), miltefosine (hexadecylphosphocholine), and pentamidine. Besides the fact that these molecules are harmful for patients, little is known about the impact of such antileishmanial drugs on primary human cells in relation to immune function. The present study demonstrates that all antileishmanial drugs inhibit CD4 and CD8 T cell proliferation at the doses that are not related to increased cell death. Our results highlight that antileishmanial drugs have an impact on monocytes by altering the expression of IL-12 induced by LPS, whereas only AmB induced IL-10 secretion; both cytokines are essential in regulating Th1 cell-mediated immunity. Interestingly, IL-12 and anti-IL-10 Abs improved T cell proliferation inhibited by AmB. Furthermore, our results show that in contrast to hexadecylphosphocholine and pentamidine, AmB induced gene expression of the inflammasome pathway. Thus, AmB induced IL-1β and IL-18 secretions, which are reduced by specific inhibitors of caspase activation (Q-VD) and NLRP3 activation (MCC950). Our results reveal previously underestimated effects of antileishmanial drugs on primary human cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antiparasitic Agents / pharmacology*
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / drug effects
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / drug effects
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Inflammasomes / drug effects*
  • Inflammasomes / metabolism
  • Interleukin-10 / metabolism
  • Interleukin-12 / metabolism*
  • Leishmania / genetics*
  • Leishmania / metabolism
  • Leishmaniasis / drug therapy*
  • Leishmaniasis / metabolism
  • Monocytes / drug effects
  • Monocytes / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects


  • Antiparasitic Agents
  • Cytokines
  • Inflammasomes
  • Interleukin-10
  • Interleukin-12