Genomic and transcriptomic alterations in Leishmania donovani lines experimentally resistant to antileishmanial drugs (English)

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Abstract: Leishmaniasis is a serious medical issue in many countries around the World, but it remains largely neglected in terms of research investment for developing new control and treatment measures. No vaccines exist for human use, and the chemotherapeutic agents currently used are scanty. Furthermore, for some drugs, resistance and treatment failure are increasing to alarming levels. The aim of this work was to identify genomic and trancriptomic alterations associated with experimental resistance against the common drugs used against VL: trivalent antimony (SbIII, S line), amphotericin B (AmB, A line), miltefosine (MIL, M line) and paromomycin (PMM, P line). A total of 1006 differentially expressed transcripts were identified in the S line, 379 in the A line, 146 in the M line, and 129 in the P line. Also, changes in ploidy of chromosomes and amplification/deletion of particular regions were observed in the resistant lines regarding the parental one. A series of genes were identified as possible drivers of the resistance phenotype and were validated in both promastigotes and amastigotes from Leishmania donovani, Leishmania infantum and Leishmania major species. Remarkably, a deletion of the gene LinJ.36.2510 (coding for 24-sterol methyltransferase, SMT) was found to be associated with AmB-resistance in the A line. In the P line, a dramatic overexpression of the transcripts LinJ.27.T1940 and LinJ.27.T1950 that results from a massive amplification of the collinear genes was suggested as one of the mechanisms of PMM resistance. This conclusion was reinforced after transfection experiments in which significant PMM-resistance was generated in WT parasites over-expressing either gene LinJ.27.1940 (coding for a D-lactate dehydrogenase-like protein, D-LDH) or gene LinJ.27.1950 (coding for an aminotransferase of branched-chain amino acids, BCAT). This work allowed to identify new drivers, like SMT, the deletion of which being associated with resistance to AmB, and the tandem D-LDH-BCAT, the amplification of which being related to PMM resistance.