Cytokines and metabolic regulation: A framework of bidirectional influences affecting Leishmania infection

Cytokine. 2021 Nov:147:155267. doi: 10.1016/j.cyto.2020.155267. Epub 2020 Sep 8.


Leishmania, a protozoan parasite inflicting the complex of diseases called Leishmaniases, resides and replicates as amastigotes within mammalian macrophages. As macrophages are metabolically highly active and can generate free radicals that can destroy this parasite, Leishmania also devise strategies to modulate the host cell metabolism. However, the metabolic changes can also be influenced by the anti-leishmanial immune response mediated by cytokines. This bidirectional, dynamic and complex metabolic coupling established between Leishmania and its host is the result of a long co-evolutionary process. Due to the continuous alterations imposed by the host microenvironment, such metabolic coupling continues to be dynamically regulated. The constant pursuit and competition for nutrients in the host-Leishmania duet alter the host metabolic pathways with major consequences for its nutritional reserves, eventually affecting the phenotype and functionality of the host cell. Altered phenotype and functions of macrophages are particularly relevant to immune cells, as perturbed metabolic fluxes can crucially affect the activation, differentiation, and functions of host immune cells. All these changes can deterministically direct the outcome of an infection. Cytokines and metabolic fluxes can bidirectionally influence each other through molecular sensors and regulators to dictate the final infection outcome. Our studies along with those from others have now identified the metabolic nodes that can be targeted for therapy.

Keywords: Cytokines; Host-parasite interaction; Leishmania; Metabolism; Nutrient sensing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cytokines / immunology*
  • Cytokines / metabolism*
  • Host-Parasite Interactions / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunity / immunology
  • Leishmania / immunology
  • Leishmaniasis / immunology*
  • Leishmaniasis / metabolism*
  • Metabolic Networks and Pathways / immunology*


  • Cytokines