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J Exp Zool A Comp Exp Biol. 2005 Nov 1;303(11):927-45.

Adaptation of a nematode parasite to living within the mammalian epithelium.

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Department of Biology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.


Trichuris muris is a large metazoan pathogen that has been proposed to live intracellularly within living host intestinal epithelial cells. We sought to determine how Trichuris bores its way through the mucosal epithelium and to elucidate the parasite strategies for taking advantage of this intracellular niche. Since the apical surface of the mucosal epithelium is stabilized by the actin cytoskeleton and cell junctions, it remains intact over the worm following its entry into cells. In contrast, non-stabilized lateral membranes of the host epithelial cells are ruptured and cells are killed to form an inert syncytial tunnel. The ventral surface of the nematode worm is studded by pores that overlie bacillary cells; these pores penetrate through the cuticle and are in direct contact with host cytoplasm. From scanning electron micrographs of isolated worms, we calculate that each adult contains approximately 50,000 bacillary cells. The apical surface of the bacillary cells is extensively folded into plicae 40 nm in diameter, thereby increasing the surface area many-fold. Bacillary cells lack organelles for enzyme synthesis and secretion and fail to export protons. However, by confocal light microscopy it was observed that fluorescent macromolecules in excess of 100,000 Da can penetrate into the pores. Taken together, we conclude that the bacillary cells are essential for living inside host epithelium and function predominantly in absorption of soluble molecules from the host mucosal cytoplasm, in essence behaving as an external gut epithelium that is protected from abrasion by the cuticle that surrounds the openings of the bacillary cells.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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