Compartmentalized cytotoxic immune response leads to distinct pathogenic roles of natural killer and senescent CD8+ T cells in human cutaneous leishmaniasis

Luciana Polaco Covre, Oliver Patrick Devine, Renan Garcia de Moura, Milica Vukmanovic-Stejic, Reynaldo Dietze, Rodrigo Ribeiro-Rodrigues, Herbert Leonel de Matos Guedes, Raphael Lubiana Zanotti, Aloisio Falqueto, Arne N. Akbar, Daniel Claudio Oliveira Gomes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Cytotoxic activity mediated by CD8+ T cells is the main signature of the immunopathogenesis of cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL). Here, we performed a broad evaluation of natural killer (NK) cell phenotypic and functional features during cutaneous leishmaniasis. We demonstrate for the first time that CL patients present the accumulation of circulating NK cells with multiple features of replicative senescence including low proliferative capacity and shorter telomeres, elevated expression of CD57, KLRG1 but diminished CD27 stimulatory receptor expression. Moreover, they exhibited higher cytotoxic and inflammatory potential than age-matched controls. The accumulation of circulating senescent NK cells (CD56dim CD57bright) correlated positively with skin lesion size in the same patients, suggesting that they, like circulating senescent CD8+ T cells, may contribute to the immunopathology of CL. However, this senescent population had lower cutaneous lymphocyte antigen expression and so had diminished skin-homing potential compared with total or senescent CD8+ T cells. This was confirmed in CL skin lesions where we found a predominance of CD8+ T cells (both senescent and non-senescent) that correlated with the severity of the disease. Although there was also a correlation between the proportions of senescent NK cells (CD56+ CD57+) in the skin and lesion size, this was less evident. Collectively our results demonstrate first-hand that senescent cytotoxic cells may mediate skin pathology during human cutaneous leishmaniasis. However, as senescent cytotoxic CD8+ T cells predominate in the skin lesions, they may have a greater role than NK cells in mediating the non-specific skin damage in CL.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)429-440
Number of pages12
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020


  • CD8 T cells
  • Cellular senescence
  • Cutaneous leishmaniasis
  • Immunopathology
  • Leishmania braziliensis
  • Natural killer cells


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