The Interaction of Leishmania Donovani Promastigotes and Human Fibroblasts in Vitro

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  • Department of Pathology and Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Geographic Medicine, University of Virginia Medical Center, Charlottesville, Virginia 22908

Leishmania donovani promastigotes derived from infected hamster spleens, in either log phase or stationary phase growth, associated with human foreskin fibroblasts in vitro and assumed the morphological characteristics of amastigotes. This apparent conversion was noted within hours at 26°C, 32°C or 37°C; in the continued presence of promastigotes, increasing numbers of amastigote-like forms were seen for 2 weeks at 26°C or 32°C. At 37°C amastigote-like forms declined sharply after 6 days. Multiplication of amastigote-like forms was not observed at any temperature, this was also true of freshly isolated amastigotes from hamster spleens which associated with fibroblasts but did not multiply. Approximately 0.1% of promastigotes appeared to convert per day. Amastigote-like forms were seen within fibroblasts by transmission electron microscopy, surrounded by a closely applied host membrane. Scanning electron microscopy showed promastigotes with their flagellae under or within fibroblasts, but phagocytosis was not observed. These experiments suggest that the conditions required for promastigote-to-amastigote conversion may be different than those required for amastigote multiplication, and the mammalian core body temperature may not be required for promastigote conversion.