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High-speed, three-dimensional imaging reveals chemotactic behaviour specific to human-infective Leishmania parasites

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DateAccepted/In press - 8 Jun 2021
DatePublished (current) - 28 Jun 2021
Number of pages15
Original languageEnglish


Cellular motility is an ancient eukaryotic trait, ubiquitous across phyla with roles in predator avoidance, resource access, and competition. Flagellar motility is seen in various parasitic protozoans, and morphological changes in flagella during the parasite life cycle have been observed. We studied the impact of these changes on motility across life cycle stages, and how such changes might serve to facilitate human infection. We used holographic microscopy to image swimming cells of different Leishmania mexicana life cycle stages in three dimensions. We find that the human-infective (metacyclic promastigote) forms display 'run and tumble' behaviour in the absence of stimulus, reminiscent of bacterial motion, and that they specifically modify swimming direction and speed to target host immune cells in response to a macrophage-derived stimulus. Non-infective (procyclic promastigote) cells swim more slowly, along meandering helical paths. These findings demonstrate adaptation of swimming phenotype and chemotaxis towards human cells.

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© 2021, Findlay et al.

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