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Visceral leishmaniasis (VL) is a fatal form among all forms of leishmaniasis and is caused by visceralization of the Leishmania donovani (Ld) parasite to the critical organs. Mild to severe malnutrition is common in VL patients and the deficiency of retinoic acid (RA), an important micronutrient, results in a compromised state of immune response in macrophages (mφ) leading to the increased parasite load. In the continuation of our earlier work, we observed loss of cellular cholesterol in infected mφ in the absence of RA i.e., upon inhibition of RALDH pathway. Moreover, the Leishmania utilizes host cholesterol for the establishment of infection and causes a decrease in the expressions of Niemann-Pick C2 (npc2) and Niemann-Pick C1 (npc1) genes involved in the uptake of extracellular cholesterol. This results in reduced levels of cellular cholesterol in infected mφ. Intrigued by this, as the first sign of our hypothesis, we investigated the presence of RA Response Element (RARE) sequences in the upstream of npc1 and npc2 genes. To functionally confirm this, we measured their expressions and the levels of cellular cholesterol in Ld infected mφ in the absence (i.e., using an inhibitor of RALDH pathway) and presence of RA. We found restoration of the levels of cellular cholesterol in infected mφ under the supplementation of RA resulting in the decreased parasite load. Hence, the supplementation of RA with the standard therapy and/or preventive use of RA could be potentially an advancement in the treatment and cure of VL patients. Copyright © 2022 Elsevier B.V. and Société Française de Biochimie et Biologie Moléculaire (SFBBM). All rights reserved.


Satya Prakash, Sheetal Saini, Smita Kumari, Bharat Singh, Amit Kumar Kureel, Ambak Kumar Rai. Retinoic acid restores the levels of cellular cholesterol in Leishmania donovani infected macrophages by increasing npc1 and npc2 expressions. Biochimie. 2022 Jul;198:23-32

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PMID: 35272007

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