Leishmaniasis is a devastating disease that disfigures or kills nearly 2 million people each year. Establishment and persistence of infection by the obligate intracellular parasite Leishmania requires repeated uptake by macrophages and other phagocytes. Therefore, preventing uptake could be a novel therapeutic strategy for leishmaniasis. Amastigotes, the life cycle stage found in the human host, bind Fc receptors and enter macrophages primarily through immunoglobulin-mediated phagocytosis. However, the host machinery that mediates amastigote uptake is poorly understood. We have shown that the Abl2/Arg non-receptor tyrosine kinase facilitates L. amazonensis amastigote uptake by macrophages. Using small molecule inhibitors and primary macrophages lacking specific Src family kinases, we now demonstrate that the Hck, Fgr, and Lyn kinases are also necessary for amastigote uptake by macrophages. Src-mediated Arg activation is required for efficient uptake. Interestingly, the dual Arg/Src kinase inhibitor bosutinib, which is approved to treat cancer, not only decreases amastigote uptake, but also significantly reduces disease severity and parasite burden in Leishmania-infected mice. Our results suggest that leishmaniasis could potentially be treated with host cell-active agents such as kinase inhibitors.
- Received January 4, 2016.
- Accepted June 23, 2016.
- © 2016. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd