A subset of liver NK T cells is activated during Leishmania donovani infection by CD1d-bound lipophosphoglycan
Killer Cells, Natural
Natural killer (NK) T cells are activated by synthetic or self-glycolipids and implicated in innate host resistance to a range of viral, bacterial, and protozoan pathogens. Despite the immunogenicity of microbial lipoglycans and their promiscuous binding to CD1d, no pathogen-derived glycolipid antigen presented by this pathway has been identified to date. In the current work, we show increased susceptibility of NK T cell-deficient CD1d(-/-) mice to Leishmania donovani infection and Leishmania-induced CD1d-dependent activation of NK T cells in wild-type animals. The elicited response was Th1 polarized, occurred as early as 2 h after infection, and was independent from IL-12. The Leishmania surface glycoconjugate lipophosphoglycan, as well as related glycoinositol phospholipids, bound with high affinity to CD1d and induced a CD1d-dependent IFNgamma response in naive intrahepatic lymphocytes. Together, these data identify Leishmania surface glycoconjugates as potential glycolipid antigens and suggest an important role for the CD1d-NK T cell immune axis in the early response to visceral Leishmania infection.