Parasitology Research

, Volume 117, Issue 11, pp 3601–3612 | Cite as

Impact of primary mouse macrophage cell types on Leishmania infection and in vitro drug susceptibility

  • M. Van den Kerkhof
  • L. Van Bockstal
  • J. F. Gielis
  • P. Delputte
  • P. Cos
  • L. Maes
  • Guy CaljonEmail author
  • Sarah HendrickxEmail author
Original Paper


Primary mouse macrophages are frequently used to provide an in vitro intracellular model to evaluate antileishmanial drug efficacy. The present study compared the phenotypic characteristics of Swiss, BALB/c, and C57BL/6 mouse bone marrow-derived macrophages and peritoneal exudate cells using different stimulation and adherence protocols upon infection with a Leishmania infantum laboratory strain and two clinical isolates. Evaluation parameters were susceptibility to infection, permissiveness to amastigote multiplication, and impact on drug efficacy. Observed variations in infection of peritoneal exudate cells can mostly be linked to changes in the inflammatory cytokine profiles (IL-6, TNF-α, KC/GRO) rather than to differences in initial production of nitric oxide and reactive oxygen species. Optimization of the cell stimulation and adherence conditions resulted in comparable infection indices among peritoneal exudate cells and the various types of bone marrow-derived macrophages. BALB/c-derived bone marrow-derived macrophages were slightly more permissive to intracellular amastigote replication. Evaluation of antileishmanial drug potency in the various cell systems revealed minimal variation for antimonials and paromomycin, and no differences for miltefosine and amphotericin B. The study results allow to conclude that drug evaluation can be performed in all tested primary macrophages as only marginal differences are observed in terms of susceptibility to infection and impact of drug exposure. Combined with some practical considerations, the use of 24-h starch-stimulated, 48-h adhered, Swiss-derived peritoneal exudate cells can be advocated as an efficient, reliable, relatively quick, and cost-effective tool for routine drug susceptibility testing in vitro whenever the use of primary cells is feasible.


Leishmania Host cell Primary macrophage Drug susceptibility 



The authors thank Pim-Bart Feijens, Margot Desmet, Mandy Vermont, and An Matheeussen for the excellent technical assistance and Dr. Laurence Lachaud (CNRL, Montpellier, France) for providing us the LEM3049 clinical isolate. We also thank Dr. Hannelie Korf (KU Leuven) for her help with the multiplex ELISA.

Funding information

This work was funded by the Research Fund Flanders (G051812N, 12I0317N, and 1136417N) and a research fund of the University of Antwerp (TT-ZAPBOF 33049). LMPH is a partner of the Antwerp Drug Discovery Network (ADDN, and the Excellence Centre “Infla-Med” (

Compliance with ethical standards

Ethics statement

The use of laboratory rodents was carried out in strict accordance to all mandatory guidelines (EU directives, including the Revised Directive 2010/63/EU on the Protection of Animals used for Scientific Purposes that came into force on 01/01/2013, and the declaration of Helsinki in its latest version) and was approved by the ethical committee of the University of Antwerp, Belgium (UA-ECD 2016–54 (02/09/2016)).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

436_2018_6059_MOESM1_ESM.docx (223 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 223 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Van den Kerkhof
    • 1
  • L. Van Bockstal
    • 1
  • J. F. Gielis
    • 1
    • 2
  • P. Delputte
    • 1
  • P. Cos
    • 1
  • L. Maes
    • 1
  • Guy Caljon
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sarah Hendrickx
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Faculty of Pharmaceutical, Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences, Laboratory of Microbiology, Parasitology and HygieneUniversity of AntwerpWilrijkBelgium
  2. 2.Antwerp Surgical Training, Anatomy & Research Center, Department of MedicineUniversity of AntwerpWilrijkBelgium

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