Differential Regulation of l-Arginine Metabolism through Arginase 1 during Infection with Leishmania mexicana Isolates Obtained from Patients with Localized and Diffuse Cutaneous Leishmaniasis

Infect Immun. 2020 Jun 22;88(7):e00963-19. doi: 10.1128/IAI.00963-19. Print 2020 Jun 22.


l-Arginine metabolism through arginase 1 (Arg-1) and inducible nitric oxide synthase (NOS2) constitutes a fundamental axis for the resolution or progression of leishmaniasis. Infection with Leishmania mexicana can cause two distinct clinical manifestations: localized cutaneous leishmaniasis (LCL) and diffuse cutaneous leishmaniasis (DCL). In this work, we analyzed in an in vivo model the capacity of two L. mexicana isolates, one obtained from a patient with LCL and the other from a patient with DCL, to regulate the metabolism of l-arginine through Arg-1 and NOS2. Susceptible BALB/c mice were infected with L. mexicana isolates from both clinical manifestations, and the evolution of the infection as well as protein presence and activity of Arg-1 and NOS2 were evaluated. The lesions of mice infected with the DCL isolate were bigger, had higher parasite loads, and showed greater protein presence and enzymatic activity of Arg-1 than the lesions of mice infected with the LCL isolate. In contrast, NOS2 protein synthesis was poorly or not induced in the lesions of mice infected with the LCL or DCL isolate. The immunochemistry analysis of the lesions allowed the identification of highly parasitized macrophages positive for Arg-1, while no staining for NOS2 was found. In addition, we observed in lesions of patients with DCL macrophages with higher parasite loads and stronger Arg-1 staining than those in lesions of patients with LCL. Our results suggest that L. mexicana isolates obtained from patients with LCL or DCL exhibit different virulence or pathogenicity degrees and differentially regulate l-arginine metabolism through Arg-1.

Keywords: l-arginine; Leishmania mexicana; NOS2; arginase 1; diffuse cutaneous leishmaniasis; localized cutaneous leishmaniasis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arginase / metabolism*
  • Arginine / metabolism*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions*
  • Humans
  • Leishmania mexicana / isolation & purification
  • Leishmania mexicana / physiology*
  • Leishmaniasis, Diffuse Cutaneous / metabolism*
  • Leishmaniasis, Diffuse Cutaneous / parasitology*
  • Macrophages / immunology
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Macrophages / parasitology
  • Mice
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type II / metabolism
  • Time Factors


  • Arginine
  • NOS2 protein, human
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type II
  • ARG1 protein, human
  • Arginase