CD8+ T cells play a protective role in immunity to cutaneous leishmaniasis. However, it has been unclear how these cells execute this function, since results from several investigations attempting to demonstrate recognition of Leishmania-infected macrophages by CD8+ T cells have been contradictory. In this study, we report the generation of CD8+ T cell lines specific for GP46/M-2, a leishmanial Ag, previously shown to protectively immunize mice against a Leishmania amazonensis challenge. Using T cell cytolysis and IFN-gamma production to assess CD8+ T cell activation, we show that in addition to recognizing mammalian cells transfected with GP46/M-2, these CD8+ T cell lines also recognize macrophages infected with Leishmania amazonensis. MHC class I presentation of GP46/M-2 by infected macrophages can be blocked by treatment with brefeldin A and also by inhibitors of the cytosolic multicatalytic proteasome, N-acetyl-L-leucinyl-L-leucinal-L-norleucinal and N-acetyl-L-leucinyl-L-leucinylmethional. These results suggest that this leishmanial Ag is processed in the macrophage cytoplasm and is presented to CD8+ T cells via the classical pathway of MHC class I presentation. The relevance of these findings as they impact on our understanding of the biology of the parasite within the macrophage is discussed.

This content is only available via PDF.