We report here the characterization of a novel Leishmania infantum protein termed papLe22 (22-kDa potentially aggravating protein of Leishmania). A positive clone from a cDNA library was identified by serum of a visceral leishmaniasis (VL) patient. Full-length cDNA obtained using rapid amplification of cDNA ends-PCR codes for a 22-kDa protein. In L. infantum promastigotes an endogenous nuclear protein of 14-kDa electrophoretic mobility was found by using an antiserum prepared against the fusion protein glutathione S-transferase–papLe22. Its expression was also shown in L. infantum amastigotes and in Leishmania major and Leishmania guyanensis promastigotes. VL patients' sera showed anti-papLe22 immunoglobulin M (IgM) and IgG reactivities, indicating that a primary response against the leishmanial protein papLe22 accompanied acute VL manifestations. Specific IgG levels were correlated with patients' clinical status. The presence of IgG1, IgG2, and IgG3 subclasses suggested a mixed Th1- and Th2-type response; there was no correlation between subclass reactivity and the disease course. The recombinant papLe22 specifically activated interleukin-10 production by VL patients' peripheral blood mononuclear cells collected at diagnosis and after treatment-induced cure, indicating its contribution to VL pathogenesis and concomitant immunosuppression and its potential role in the reactivation of latent parasites. As a dominant immunogen, papLe22 might be used as a vaccine component, provided that the vaccination protocol directs the response toward the Th1 pattern
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