Cross-species genetic exchange between visceral and cutaneous strains of Leishmania in the sand fly vector

Audrey Romano, Ehud Inbar, Alain Debrabant, Melanie Charmoy, Phillip Lawyer, Flavia Ribeiro-Gomes, Mourad Barhoumi, Michael Grigg, Jahangheer Shaik, Deborah Dobson, Stephen M. Beverley, David L. Sacks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


Genetic exchange between Leishmania major strains during their development in the sand fly vector has been experimentally shown. To investigate the possibility of genetic exchange between different Leishmania species, a cutaneous strain of L. major and a visceral strain of Leishmania infantum, each bearing a different drug-resistant marker, were used to coinfect Lutzomyia longipalpis sand flies. Eleven double-drug-resistant progeny clones, each the product of an independent mating event, were generated and submitted to genotype and phenotype analyses. The analysis of multiple allelic markers across the genome suggested that eachprogeny clone inherited at least one full set of chromosomes from each parent, with loss of heterozygosity at some loci, and uniparental retention of maxicircle kinetoplast DNA. Hybrids with DNA contents of approximately 2n, 3n, and 4n were observed. In vivo studies revealed clear differences in the ability of the hybrids to produce pathology in the skin or to disseminate to and grow in the viscera, suggesting polymorphisms and differential inheritance of the gene(s) controlling these traits. The studies, to our knowledge, represent the first experimental confirmation of cross-species mating in Leishmania, opening the way toward genetic linkage analysis of important traits and providing strong evidence that genetic exchange is responsible for the generation of the mixed-species genotypes observed in natural populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16808-16813
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number47
StatePublished - Nov 25 2014


  • Genetic exchange
  • Leishmania
  • Sand fly


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