Professional phagocytes like polymorphonuclear neutrophil granulocytes (PMN) and macrophages (MF) kill pathogens as the first line of defense. These cells possess numerous effector mechanisms to eliminate a threat at first contact. However, several microorganisms still manage to evade phagocytic killing, survive and retain infectivity. Some pathogens have developed strategies to silently infect their preferred host phagocytes. The best example of an immune silencing phagocytosis process is the uptake of apoptotic cells. Immune responses are suppressed by the recognition of phosphatidylserine (PS) on the outer leaflet of their plasma membrane. Taking Leishmania major as a prototypic intracellular pathogen, we showed that these organisms can use the apoptotic "eat me" signal PS to silently enter PMN. PS-positive and apoptotic parasites, in an altruistic way, enable the intracellular survival of the viable parasites. Subsequently these pathogens again use PS exposition, now on infected PMN, to silently invade their definitive host cells, the MF. In this review, we will focus on L. major evasion strategies and discuss other pathogens and their use of the apoptotic "eat me" signal PS to establish infection.
Research Areas and Centers
- Academic Focus: Center for Infection and Inflammation Research (ZIEL)