American cutaneous leishmaniasis is a disease of skin and mucous membranes in which T lymphocytes reactive to Leishmania (Viannia) braziliensis are thought to contribute to protective immunity. To characterize the nature of the T cell inflammatory infiltrate in American cutaneous leishmaniasis lesions, immunohistochemistry with mAb that define T cell subpopulations and in situ hybridization to detect mRNA coding for IFN-gamma were performed. In both localized cutaneous (LCL) and mucocutaneous (MCL) lesions, we observed a predominance of T memory (CD4+CD45RO+) as compared to T naive cells (CD+CD45RA+). The percentages of cells containing IFN-gamma mRNA were equivalent in both LCL and MCL lesions. T cells were extracted from LCL and MCL lesions and analysis indicated that T cells from both lesions had been stimulated by L. (V.) braziliensis in vivo and gave equivalent proliferative responses in vitro. The present data suggest that T memory cells, which are likely to elaborate IFN-gamma, are components of DTH response to L. (V.) braziliensis and participate in the pathogenesis of both LCL and MCL lesions.

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