Leishmania braziliensis causes cutaneous and mucosal leishmaniasis in humans. Most patients with cutaneous leishmaniasis heal spontaneously and may therefore have developed protective immunity. There appears to be a mixed cytokine profile associated with active cutaneous or mucosal disease, and a dominant T helper (Th)1-type response associated with healing. Leishmanial antigens that elicit these potent proliferative and cytokine responses from peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) are now being identified. Herein, we report on the cloning and expression of a L. braziliensis gene homologous to the eukaryotic ribosomal protein eIF4A (LeIF) and patient PBMC responses to rLeIF. Patients with mucosal and self-healing cutaneous disease had significantly higher proliferative responses than those with cutaneous lesions. Whereas the parasite lysate stimulated patient PBMC to produce a mixed Th1/Th2-type cytokine profile, LeIF stimulated the production of interferon gamma (IFN-gamma), interleukin 2 (IL-2), and tumor necrosis factor alpha but not IL-4 or IL-10. Recombinant LeIF (rLeIF) downregulated both IL-10 mRNA in the "resting" PBMC of leishmaniasis patients and LPS-induced IL-10 production by patient PBMC. rLeIF also stimulated the production of IL-12 in cultured PBMC from both patients and uninfected individuals. The production of IFN-gamma by patient PBMC stimulated with either rLeIF or parasite lysate was IL-12 dependent, whereas anti-IFN-gamma monoclonal antibody only partially blocked the LeIF-induced production of IL-12. In vitro production of both IFN-gamma and IL-12 was abrogated by exogenous human recombinant IL-10. Therefore, we have identified a recombinant leishmanial antigen that elicits IL-12 production and Th1-type responses in patients as well as IL-12 production in normal human PBMC.