Specific nature of Trichomonas vaginalis parasitism of host cell surfaces

J. F. Alderete, G. E. Garza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

94 Scopus citations


The adherence of Trichomonas vaginalis NYH 286 to host cells was evaluated by using monolayer cultures of HeLa and HEp-2 epithelial cells and human fibroblast cell lines. Saturation of sites on HeLa cells was achieved, yielded a maximal T. vaginalis NYH 286-to-cell ratio of two. The ability of radiolabeled NYH 286 to compete with unlabeled trichomonads for attachment and the time, temperature, and pH-dependent nature of host cell parasitism reinforced the idea of specific parasite-cell associations. Other trichomonal isolates (JH31A, RU 375, and JHHR) were also found to adhere to cell monolayers, albeit to different degrees, and all isolates produced maximal contact-dependent HeLa cell cytotoxicity. The avirulent trichomonad, Trichomonas tenax, did not adhere to cell monolayers and did not cause host cell damage. Interestingly, parasite cytadherence was greater with HeLa and HEp-2 epithelial cells than with fibroblast cells. In addition, cytotoxicity with fibroblast cells never exceeded 20% of the level of cell killing observed for epithelial cells. Elucidation of properties of the pathogenic human trichomonads that allowed for host cell surface parasitism was also attempted. Treatment of motile T. vaginalis NYH 286 with trypsin diminished cell parasitism. Incubation of trypsinized organisms in growth medium allowed for regeneration of trichomonal adherence, and cycloheximide inhibited the regeneration of attachment. Organisms poisoned with metronidazole or iodoacetate failed to attach to host cells, and adherent trichomonads exposed to metronidazole or iodoacetate were readily released from parasitized cells. Coincubation experiments with polycationic proteins and sugars and pretreatment of parasites or cells with neuraminidase or periodate had no effect on host cell parasitism. Colchicine and cytochalasin B, however, did produce some inhibition of adherence to HeLa cells. The data suggest that metabolizing T. vaginalis adheres to host cells via parasite surface proteins in a specific receptor-ligand fashion. Furthermore, parasitism of epithelial cells appears to render this cell type more susceptible than fibroblast cell types to contact-dependent cytotoxicity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)701-708
Number of pages8
JournalInfection and immunity
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1985

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases


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