Species of the genus Leishmania are the causal agents of leishmaniasis, a disease with diametrically different clinical manifestations that have been attributed to the species and host immune response. Some Leishmania species, including Leishmania mexicana, are capable of causing both localized cutaneous leishmaniasis (LCL) and diffuse cutaneous leishmaniasis (DCL). Therefore, it is possible that intraspecific differences may exist that contribute to the development of distinct clinical forms. Dendritic cells (DC) are important host cells of Leishmania spp. parasites, and cytokine production and phagocytosis upon infection with the parasite are significant for the outcome of the disease. In the present study we analyzed the production of IL-12, TNF-α, and IL-10 by DC infected with L. mexicana amastigotes isolated from a patient with LCL (amastigote = Lac) and from a patient with DCL (amastigote = Diact) by murine DC. Furthermore, we compared the frequency of phagocytosis of L. mexicana amastigotes of each isolate by fluorescence and optical microscopy and by flow cytometry. We show that the infection of DC with Diact amastigotes elicited the secretion of IL-10, TNF-α, and IL-12 by DC to a major extent as compared to the infection with Lac amastigotes. On the other hand, Lac and Diact amastigotes were similarly phagocytosed by DC, but interestingly there were more vacuoles in DC infected with Diact amastigotes. Our results suggest that isolates from a same species of Leishmania, such as L. mexicana, with different degrees of virulence according to the clinical manifestation they cause, differ in their capacity to elicit cytokine production and form vacuoles in DC.

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