Anais da Academia Brasileira de Ciências
Print version ISSN 0001-3765
FERREIRA, Ludmila R.P. et al. Active transcription and ultrastructural changes during Trypanosoma cruzi metacyclogenesis. An. Acad. Bras. Ciênc. [online]. 2008, vol.80, n.1, pp. 157-166. ISSN 0001-3765. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S0001-37652008000100011.
The differentiation of proliferating epimastigote forms of Trypanosoma cruzi , the protozoan parasite that causes Chagas disease, into the infective and non-proliferating metacyclic forms can be reproduced in the laboratory by incubating the cells in a chemically-defined medium that mimics the urine of the insect vector. Epimastigotes have a spherical nucleus, a flagellum protruding from the middle of the protozoan cell, and a disk-shaped kinetoplast - an organelle that corresponds to the mitochondrial DNA. Metacyclic trypomastigotes have an elongated shape with the flagellum protruding from the posterior portion of the cell and associated with a spherical kinetoplast. Here we describe the morphological events of this transformation and characterize a novel intermediate stage by three-dimensional reconstruction of electron microscope serial sections. This new intermediate stage is characterized by a kinetoplast compressing an already elongated nucleus, indicating that metacyclogenesis involves active movements of the flagellar structure relative to the cell body. As transcription occurs more intensely in proliferating epimastigotes than in metacyclics, we also examined the presence of RNA polymerase II and measured transcriptional activity during the differentiation process. Both the presence of the enzyme and transcriptional activity remain unchanged during all steps of metacyclogenesis. RNA polymerase II levels and transcriptional activity only decrease after metacyclics are formed. We suggest that transcription is required during the epimastigote-to-metacyclic trypomastigote differentiation process, until the kinetoplast and flagellum reach the posterior position of the parasites in the infective form.
Keywords : Trypanosoma cruzi; metacyclogenesis; transcription; RNA polymerase II.