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Infect Immun. 2008 Aug;76(8):3735-41. doi: 10.1128/IAI.00362-08. Epub 2008 May 27.

The terminal sialic acid of glycoconjugates on the surface of intestinal epithelial cells activates excystation of Cryptosporidium parvum.

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  • 1Centre for Gastroenterology, Institute for Cell and Molecular Science, Barts and the London School of Medicine, Newark Street, University of London, London E1 2AD, United Kingdom.


The apicomplexan Cryptosporidium parvum reproduces in the intestinal epithelial cells of many mammalian species and is an agent of the important diarrheal disease cryptosporidiosis. Infection is transmitted fecal-orally by oocysts that pass through the stomach and excystation occurs in the intestine, releasing four invasive sporozoites. Some factors involved in inducing excystation have been identified, but the role of the enterocyte is not known. The present study showed that excystation was accelerated in the presence of the three enterocyte cell lines Caco2, HCT8, and CMT93. Epithelial cell lines derived from other organs, including the stomach, had no effect on excystation. No evidence was obtained that factors secreted from enterocytes induced excystation, but an enterocyte membrane preparation promoted sporozoite release. In addition, modification of the enterocyte surface by trypsin digestion or paraformaldehyde fixation abrogated the ability to enhance excystation. Importantly, the level of excystation in the presence of enterocytes decreased after treatment with either sialidase/neuraminidase to deplete surface terminal sialic acid or with lectins that specifically bind to sialic acid. Furthermore, the addition of sialic acid to oocysts in the absence of cells increased the level of excystation. These results suggest that sialic acid on the surface of enterocytes may provide an important local signal for the excystation of C. parvum sporozoites.

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