Single cell transcriptomics of Leishmania donovani throughout its development in its natural sand fly vector Phlebotomus argentipes

Project Details

Layman's description

Parasite vectors are not simply a ‘flying syringe’ but they provide a specific environment hosting crucial
events for resetting the parasite’s virulence, for transmission to vertebrate hosts and for parasite
recombination. In case of the Leishmania-sand fly pair, a complex development of the parasite
through different life stages culminates in the generation of metacyclics, a life stage pre-adapted for
infection of mammals. The understanding of the molecular events underlying this development
remains a major knowledge gap, supporting the pursuit for life stage-specific molecular markers.
Through a collaboration with a world leader in sand fly biology (CUNI#), we will use single cell RNAseq
(scRNAseq) to characterize the pathways modulated during the development of L. donovani in its
natural sand fly vector, the dynamics of molecular adaptation and the molecular heterogeneity of the
parasites at different time points of the development. This project will contribute to develop at ITM a
model of Leishmania infection of sand fly, using the ‘natural’ couple L. donovani/P. argentipes and to
strengthen capacities for (sc)RNAseq and bio-informatics at ITM and CUNI. Besides paving the way to
a full proposal*, LEISH-ILIAD will provide markers for epidemiological monitoring of visceral
leishmaniasis (infectiousness of sand flies, vector competence) and offer a model that will guide novel
vector-based transmission-blocking vaccines.
Effective start/end date20/10/2031/12/21


  • Flemish Government - Department of Economy, Science & Innovation: €25,000.00