Boundary behaviours of Leishmania mexicana: A hydrodynamic simulation study

Benjamin J. Walker, Richard J. Wheeler, Kenta Ishimoto, Eamonn A. Gaffney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (SciVal)


It is well established that the parasites of the genus Leishmania exhibit complex surface interactions with the sandfly vector midgut epithelium, but no prior study has considered the details of their hydrodynamics. Here, the boundary behaviours of motile Leishmania mexicana promastigotes are explored in a computational study using the boundary element method, with a model flagellar beating pattern that has been identified from digital videomicroscopy. In particular a simple flagellar kinematics is observed and quantified using image processing and mode identification techniques, suggesting a simple mechanical driver for the Leishmania beat. Phase plane analysis and long-time simulation of a range of Leishmania swimming scenarios demonstrate an absence of stable boundary motility for an idealised model promastigote, with behaviours ranging from boundary capture to deflection into the bulk both with and without surface forces between the swimmer and the boundary. Indeed, the inclusion of a short-range repulsive surface force results in the deflection of all surface-bound promastigotes, suggesting that the documented surface detachment of infective metacyclic promastigotes may be the result of their particular morphology and simple hydrodynamics. Further, simulation elucidates a remarkable morphology-dependent hydrodynamic mechanism of boundary approach, hypothesised to be the cause of the well-established phenomenon of tip-first epithelial attachment of Leishmania promastigotes to the sandfly vector midgut.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)311-320
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
Publication statusPublished - 7 Feb 2019


  • Boundary element method
  • Flagellar beat
  • Leishmania-sandfly gut interaction
  • Low Reynolds number flow
  • Promastigote motility

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Modelling and Simulation
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Applied Mathematics


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