The immunosuppressive effects of the fungal metabolite cyclosporin A (CsA) are mediated primarily by binding to cyclophilins (Cyps). The resulting CsA–Cyp complex inhibits the Ca2+-regulated protein phosphatase calcineurin and down-regulates signal transduction events. Previously we reported that CsA is a potent inhibitor of infections transmitted by the human pathogenic protozoan parasite Leishmania major in vitro and in vivo, but does not effect the extracellular growth of L. major itself. It is unknown how L. major exerts this resistance to CsA. Here we report that a major Cyp, besides additional isoforms with the same N-terminal amino acid sequence, was expressed in L. major. The cloned and sequenced gene encodes a putative 174-residue protein called L. major Cyp 19 (LmCyp19). The recombinant LmCyp19 exhibits peptidyl-prolyl cis/trans isomerase activity with a substrate specificity and an inhibition by CsA that are characteristic of other eukaryotic Cyps. To determine whether calcineurin is involved in the discrimination of the effects of CsA we also examined the presence of a parasitic calcineurin and tested the interaction with Cyps. Despite the expression of functionally active calcineurin by L. major, neither LmCyp19 nor other L. major Cyps bound to its own or mammalian calcineurin. The amino acid sequence of most Cyps includes an essential arginine residue around the calcineurin-docking side. In LmCyp19 this is replaced by an asparagine residue. This exchange and additional charged residues are apparently responsible for the lack of LmCyp19 interaction with calcineurin. These observations indicate that resistance of L. major to CsA in vitro is mediated by the lack of complex formation with calcineurin despite CsA binding by parasitic Cyp.

This content is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.