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Am J Physiol Cell Physiol. 2004 Feb;286(2):C206-12. Epub 2003 Sep 17.

Cruzipain, a major Trypanosoma cruzi antigen, promotes arginase-2 expression and survival of neonatal mouse cardiomyocytes.

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Departamento de Bioquímica Clínica, Facultad de Ciencias Químicas, Univ. Nacional de Córdoba, Haya de la Torre y Medina Allende, Ciudad universitaria, CP 5000, Córdoba, Argentina.


An intense myocarditis is frequently found in the acute phase of Trypanosoma cruzi infection. Despite the cardiac damage, infected individuals may remain asymptomatic for decades. Thus T. cruzi may directly prevent cardiomyocyte death to keep heart destruction in check. Recently, it has been shown that Schwann cell invasion by T. cruzi, their prime target in the peripheral nervous system, suppressed host cell apoptosis caused by growth factor deprivation. Likewise, the trans-sialidase of T. cruzi reproduced this antiapoptotic activity of the parasite. In this study, we have investigated the effect of cruzipain, another important T. cruzi antigen, on survival and cell death of neonatal BALB/c mouse cardiomyocyte cultures. We have found that cruzipain, as well as T. cruzi infection, promoted survival of cardiomyocytes cultured under serum deprivation. The antiapoptotic effect was mediated by Bcl-2 expression but not by Bcl-xL expression. Because arginase activity is involved in cell differentiation and wound healing in most cell types and it favors parasite growth within the cell, we have further investigated the effect of cruzipain on the regulation of l-arginine metabolic pathways. Our results have revealed that cruzipain enhanced arginase activity and the expression of arginase-2 isoform but failed to induce nitric oxide synthase activity. In addition, the inhibition of arginase activity by NG-hydroxy-l-arginine, abrogated the antiapoptotic action of cruzipain. The results demonstrate that cruzipain may act as a survival factor for cardiomyocytes because it rescued them from apoptosis and stimulated arginase-2.

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