Host-Parasite Relationship of Leishmania mexicana mexicana and Lutzomyia abonnenci (Diptera: Psychodidae)

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  • Yale Arbovirus Research Unit, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, Yale University School of Medicine, 60 College Street, P.O. Box 3333, New Haven, Connecticut 06510-8034
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The life cycle of Leishmania mexicana mexicana in the gut of the sand fly, Lutzomyia abonnenci, was studied by light and electron microscopy. Development was suprapylarian with initial establishment of parasites in the bloodmeal (posterior midgut), and anterior migration of parasites to the cardia/stomodeal valve region beginning at 2.5 days post-infection. Flagellates were first observed in the esophagus at 3.5 days, in the posterior armature region of the pharynx at 5 days, and in the anterior pharynx at 7 days; but they were not detected in the cibarium or proboscis. Infection of the pylorus region of the hindgut and of the Malpighian tubules was also commonly observed. Three different morphological forms of L. m. mexicana developed in the gut: nectomonad promastigotes, short promastigotes, and paramastigotes. Nectomonads occurred primarily in the abdominal midgut after bloodmeal digestion, where they were oriented in longitudinal masses in the lumen, or interdigitated with epithelial microvilli via the flagellum. Short promastigotes found in the cardia/stomodeal valve region are described for the first time. These forms were smaller than nectomonads, showed an amplification of the kinetoplast, apposition of kinetoplast and nucleus, and were embedded in a gel-like matrix. To maintain position in the cardia, parasites commonly inserted the flagellum deep into microvilli or cytoplasm of the epithelium; adherence to the cuticular intima of the stomodeal valve was by flagellar modification and formation of hemidesmosome plaques. Paramastigotes occurred in the esophagus, were sometimes degenerated in appearance, and were attached via flagellar hemidesmosomes. Paramastigotes observed in the lumen of the pharynx were commonly degenerated and were not attached to the intima. L. m. mexicana was able to colonize the various gut habitats of Lu. abonnenci by a number of adaptations; this sand fly appears to be a suitable biological host for the parasite.