Leishmania major: differential resistance to infection in C57BL/6 (high interferon-alpha/beta) and congenic B6.C-H-28c (low interferon-alpha/beta) mice

Exp Parasitol. 1996 Nov;84(2):136-43. doi: 10.1006/expr.1996.0099.


In murine cutaneous leishmaniasis caused by Leishmania major (Lm), resistance often associates with the outgrowth of Lm-specific Th1 cells. Parasites are eliminated by Th1-mediated activation of infected macrophages (M phi) which destroy Lm by producing toxic nitrogen and oxygen radicals. The cytokine IFN-alpha activates microbicidal functions of M phis and facilitates outgrowth of Th1 cells. Therefore, we compared the course of infection with Lm in resistant C57BL/6 mice, bearing the If-1h high expression allele for IFN-alpha/beta, with the congenic B6.C-H-28c mouse, bearing the If-1I low expression allele from the Lm-susceptible BALB/c strain. We observed that B6.C-H-28c animals developed up to 70% larger footpad lesions and harbored up to 1000-fold more parasites than C57BL/6 mice. Furthermore, peak Lm-specific IFN-gamma production in the B6.C-H-28c animals was lower and delayed by approximately 2 weeks, whereas IL-4 production was higher and persisted approximately 2 weeks longer. Since these results suggested that IFN-alpha/beta plays a protective role in mice infected with Lm, we determined whether infusing B6.C-H-28c mice with IFN-alpha would influence the course of infection with Lm. Unfortunately, the mice developed severe peritoneal hemorrhaging in response to injection with IFN-alpha. Therefore, we examined the ability of IFN-alpha to activate M phis to destroy Lm in vitro. We observed that rIFN-alpha could synergize with subactivating doses of LPS to activate both C57BL/6 and BALB/c peritoneal M phis to produce NO and to kill intracellular Lm. Taken as a whole, these results suggest that type I interferons may play a protective role in cutaneous leishmaniasis.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Interferon Type I / administration & dosage
  • Interferon Type I / pharmacology
  • Interferon-alpha / biosynthesis
  • Interferon-alpha / genetics
  • Interferon-alpha / immunology*
  • Interferon-beta / biosynthesis
  • Interferon-beta / genetics
  • Interferon-beta / immunology*
  • Leishmania major / immunology*
  • Leishmaniasis, Cutaneous / immunology*
  • Lipopolysaccharides / pharmacology
  • Macrophage Activation
  • Macrophages, Peritoneal / immunology
  • Macrophages, Peritoneal / metabolism
  • Macrophages, Peritoneal / parasitology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Nitric Oxide / biosynthesis
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Th1 Cells / immunology


  • Interferon Type I
  • Interferon-alpha
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Interferon-beta