UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Countervailing, time-dependent effects on host autophagy promote the intracellular survival of leishmania Thomas, Sneha Ann


Autophagy is essential for cell survival under stress and has also been implicated in host defense. Here, we investigated the interactions between Leishmania donovani, the main etiological agent of visceral leishmaniasis, and the autophagic machinery of human macrophages. Our results revealed that during early infection—and via activation of the Akt pathway—Leishmania actively inhibits the induction of autophagy. However, by 24 h, Leishmania switched from being an inhibitor to an overall inducer of autophagy. These findings of a dynamic, biphasic response were based on the accumulation of lipidated light chain 3 (LC3), an autophagosome marker, by Western blotting and confocal fluorescence microscopy. We also present evidence that Leishmania induces delayed host cell autophagy via a mechanism independent of reduced activity of the mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR). Notably, Leishmania actively inhibited mTOR-regulated autophagy even at later stages of infection, whereas there was a clear induction of autophagy via some other mechanism. In this context, we examined host inositol monophosphatase (IMPase), reduced levels of which have been implicated in mTOR-independent autophagy, and we found that IMPase activity is significantly decreased in infected cells. These findings indicate that Leishmania uses an alternative pathway to mTOR to induce autophagy in host macrophages. Finally, RNAi mediated downregulation of host autophagy protein 5 (ATG5) or autophagy protein 9A (ATG9A) decreased parasite loads, demonstrating that autophagy is essential for Leishmania survival. We conclude that Leishmania uses an alternative pathway to induce host autophagy while simultaneously inhibiting mTOR-regulated autophagy to fine-tune the timing and magnitude of this process and to optimize parasite survival.

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