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J Eukaryot Microbiol. 2011 Nov-Dec;58(6):480-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1550-7408.2011.00576.x. Epub 2011 Aug 25.

High-resolution electron microscopical study of cyst walls of Entamoeba spp.

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Department of Infectomics and Molecular Pathogenesis, Centro de Investigación y de EstudiosAvanzados, Avenue IPN 2508, Zacatenco 07360, Mexico City, Mexico.


Knowledge of the fine structural organization, molecular composition and permeability properties of the cell surface of intestinal protozoan cysts is important to understand the biologic basis of their resistance. Recent studies on the biology of the cyst walls of Entamoeba histolytica and Entamoeba invadens have considerably advanced knowledge on the cellular processes involved in the transport and surface deposition of the main cyst wall components. Using transmission electron microscopy, cytochemistry, scanning electron microscopy and freeze-fracture techniques, we have obtained new information. In mature cysts the permeability of Entamoeba cysts is limited to small molecules not by the cyst wall, but by the plasma membrane, as demonstrated with the use of ruthenium red as an electron-dense tracer. Cell walls of E. histolytica cysts are made up of five to seven layers of unordered fibrils 7-8 nm thick. Alcian blue stains a regular mesh of fibrils approximately 4 nm thick, running perpendicularly to the cyst wall. In addition, abundant ionogenic groups are seen in cyst walls treated with cationized ferritin. In the mature cysts of E. histolytica and E. invadens small cytoplasmic vesicles with granular material were in close contact with the plasma membrane, suggesting a process of fusion and deposition of granular material to the cell wall. The plasma membrane of mature cysts is devoid of intramembrane particles when analyzed with the freeze-fracture technique. When viewed with scanning electron microscopy the surface of E. histolytica cysts clearly differs from that of Entamoeba coli and E. invadens.

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