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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

A Leishmania amazonensis ZIP family iron transporter is essential for parasite replication within macrophage phagolysosomes.

Infection of mammalian hosts with Leishmania amazonensis depends on the remarkable ability of these parasites to replicate within macrophage phagolysosomes. A critical adaptation for survival in this harsh environment is an efficient mechanism for gaining access to iron. In this study, we identify and characterize LIT1, a novel L. amazonensis membrane protein with extensive similarity to IRT1, a ZIP family ferrous iron transporter from Arabidopsis thaliana. The ability of LIT1 to promote iron transport was demonstrated after expression in yeast and in L. amazonensis LIT1-null amastigotes. Endogenous LIT1 was only detectable in amastigotes replicating intracellularly, and its intracellular expression was accelerated under conditions predicted to result in iron deprivation. Although L. amazonensis lacking LIT1 grew normally in axenic culture and had no defects differentiating into infective forms, replication within macrophages was abolished. Consistent with an essential role for LIT1 in intracellular growth as amastigotes, Deltalit1 parasites were avirulent. After inoculation into highly susceptible mice, no lesions were detected, even after extensive periods of time. Despite the absence of pathology, viable Deltalit1 parasites were recovered from the original sites of inoculation, indicating that L. amazonensis can persist in vivo independently of the ability to grow in macrophages. Our findings highlight the essential role played by intracellular iron acquisition in Leishmania virulence and identify this pathway as a promising target for therapeutic intervention.[1]


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