Miltefosine (hexadecylphosphocholine, MLF) is the first oral drug with recognized efficacy against both visceral and cutaneous leishmaniasis. However, some clinical studies have suggested that MLF shows significantly less efficiency against the cutaneous leishmaniasis caused by Leishmania braziliensis. In this work, we have determined the cellular and molecular basis for the natural MLF resistance observed in L. braziliensis. Four independent L. braziliensis clinical isolates showed a marked decrease in MLF sensitivity that was due to their inability to internalize the drug. MLF internalization in the highly sensitive L. donovani species requires at least two proteins in the plasma membrane, LdMT, a P-type ATPase involved in phospholipid translocation, and its β subunit, LdRos3. Strikingly, L. braziliensis parasites showed highly reduced levels of this MLF translocation machinery at the plasma membrane, mainly because of the low expression levels of the β subunit, LbRos3. Overexpression of LbRos3 induces increased MLF sensitivity not only in L. braziliensis promastigotes but also in intracellular amastigotes. These results further highlight the importance of the MLF translocation machinery in determining MLF potency and point toward the development of protocols to routinely monitor MLF susceptibility in geographic areas where L. braziliensis might be prevalent
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