Leishmania is resident within the macrophages of its vertebrate host. In any intramacrophage infection, where the pathogen is present in a form capable of mediating cell to cell transmission, the contribution of a cytotoxic T cell response to protective immunity is questionable. This study presents data from an in vitro model designed to elucidate the outcome of an interaction between CD8+, cytotoxic T cells and infected macrophages. Experiments were conducted with an H-2d-restricted, cytotoxic CD8+ T cell clone and Leishmania parasites present in mixed macrophage cultures, with the parasites confined to either histocompatible BALB/c macrophages, or incompatible CBA macrophages. Initial experiments indicated that the viability of Leishmania was unaffected by the lysis of its host macrophage by cytotoxic T cells. However, extended experiments showed that the parasites were killed between 24 and 72 h. The same results were obtained regardless of whether the parasites were resident in the target, BALB/c, macrophages or the bystander, CBA, macrophages. Addition of neutralizing, anti-IFN-g antibody to the cultures ablated most of the leishmanicidal behavior, indicating that parasite death was attributable to macrophage activation, resulting from cytokine secretion from the T cells following the initial recognition event.

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