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Revista da Sociedade Brasileira de Medicina Tropical

Print version ISSN 0037-8682On-line version ISSN 1678-9849

Rev. Soc. Bras. Med. Trop. vol.49 no.3 Uberaba May./June 2016 

Short Communication

Semisolid liver infusion tryptose supplemented with human urine allows growth and isolation of Trypanosoma cruzi and Trypanosoma rangeli clonal lineages

Emanuella Francisco Fajardo1 

Marlene Cabrine-Santos2 

Keila Adriana Magalhães Ferreira3 

Eliane Lages-Silva1 

Luis Eduardo Ramírez1 

André Luiz Pedrosa1 

1Instituto de Ciências Biológicas e Naturais, Universidade Federal do Triângulo Mineiro, Uberaba, Minas Gerais, Brasil.

2Instituto de Ciências da Saúde, Universidade Federal do Triângulo Mineiro, Uberaba, Minas Gerais, Brasil.

3Centro de Educação Profissional, Universidade Federal do Triângulo Mineiro, Uberaba, Minas Gerais, Brasil.



This work shows that 3% (v/v) human urine (HU) in semisolid Liver Infusion Tryptose (SSL) medium favors the growth of Trypanosoma cruzi and T. rangeli.


Parasites were plated as individual or mixed strains on SSL medium and on SSL medium with 3% human urine (SSL-HU). Isolate DNA was analyzed using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE).


SSL-HU medium improved clone isolation. PCR revealed that T. cruzi strains predominate on mixed-strain plates. PFGE confirmed that isolated parasites share the same molecular karyotype as parental cell lines.


SSL-HU medium constitutes a novel tool for obtaining T. cruzi and T. rangeli clonal lineages.

Keywords: Trypanosoma rangeli; Trypanosoma cruzi; Clonal lineages

Trypanosoma cruzi is the etiological agent of Chagas disease, a condition that affects approximately seven million people, mainly in Latin America. In contrast with T. cruzi, Trypanosoma rangeli causes only temporary manifestations in humans and in other mammals, but is pathogenic for its triatomine vector. T. cruzi and T. rangeli share vectors and reservoirs, making the specific diagnosis of Chagas disease difficult1. In vitro cultivation of T. cruzi is used for detection of the parasite in vertebrate hosts and vectors. T. cruzi cultivation can be performed in liquid, solid, or semisolid media2) (3. Liver infusion tryptose (LIT) is a liquid medium4 used for large-scale cultivation of trypanosomatids for genetic characterization and manipulation of parasites. Due to poor growth of T. rangeli in LIT5, other supplements must be added to the culture media. The addition of human urine (HU) to LIT medium stimulates the in vitro growth of T. cruzi and T. rangeli, allowing similar maximum parasite densities for these parasites5.

Many studies use limiting dilution in cases where cellular cloning is necessary. However, this is a time-consuming technique, and the clonality of the isolated cells often cannot be guaranteed. Other methodologies for the guaranteed isolation of a single cell include micromanipulation or the use of a fluorescence-activated cell sorter (FACS) (6. The most efficient method for isolating clonal parasite lineages, however, is plating the forms on solid or semisolid media. In spite of the widespread use of liquid media (primarily LIT) for T. cruzi cultivation, there have been few previous attempts to cultivate T. cruzi on semisolid media. In addition, growth differences have been observed between T. cruzi and T. rangeli on solid media3. One study showed that BLAB (BHI-LIT-blood agar), a solid medium2, resulted in the growth of T. cruzi colonies with reasonable plating efficiencies. However, growth of T. rangeli has not been assessed on BLAB medium. Different types of solid media3, each made up of a double layer, were recently assessed for growth of T. cruzi and T. rangeli isolates from triatomine bugs and mice and resulted in high plating efficiencies for T. cruzi. Four colonies of T. rangeli (strain not specified) were also isolated from one of the plates.

Considering the necessity of a simple and inexpensive method for obtaining clonal lineages for genetic manipulation experiments, in this study, we aimed to determine the growth and plating efficiency of T. cruzi and T. rangeli on semisolid LIT (SSL) medium with 3% (v/v) HU added.

Epimastigote forms of T. cruzi (strains Y, JG, and RN1) and T. rangeli (strains P07 and SO29)7 were maintained by passaging in LIT medium4 supplemented with 10% (v/v) fetal bovine serum. These were incubated at 28ºC in a biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) incubator. SSL medium was prepared by mixing equal volumes of 2X LIT medium and 2% (w/v) noble agar (Sigma, Missouri, USA). SSL-HU medium was prepared by supplementing SSL with 3% (v/v) sterile HU5. Noble agar was replaced with 1% (w/v) bacteriological agar (BA) to produce SSL-BA medium with or without HU. Aliquots of 20mL SSL were poured into Petri dishes with a 9-cm diameter. After drying, the plates were refrigerated at 4ºC until use.

Plates were placed at approximately 25o C for approximately 15 min before use. Parasites were counted in a hemocytometer and diluted in LIT medium to obtain 1.0 × 103 epimastigote forms in a volume of 30-50µL. This volume was transferred to the surface of each plate, and parasites were spread using a disposable plastic Drigalsky spatula. Plates containing T. cruzi and T. rangeli strains were prepared using a single strain or by mixing different parasite strains (Table 1). In this last case, equal quantities of parasites (5.0 ×102 forms of each strain) were mixed and then spread on the plate using just one disposable plastic Drigalsky spatula. The plates were sealed and incubated at 28ºC. Plates were checked for the appearance of colonies twice a week for four weeks. Plating efficiency was determined as the ratio of the total number of colonies obtained per plate to the total number of parasites plated (1.0 × 103 epimastigote forms). Isolated colonies were picked from plates 30 days after incubation, and each colony was inoculated into 2mL of LIT medium. After 48 hours, aliquots of 2mL of each culture were inoculated into the same volume of a solution containing 6M guanidine hydrochloride and 0.2M ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA) for preservation, then DNA extraction was performed as previously described8. Twenty colonies from each plate were selected for further pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) analysis.

For determination of the species comprising each colony, we performed PCR analysis of telomeric and subtelomeric sequences9, which allows amplification of distinct fragments for T. cruzi (100bp) and T. rangeli (170bp). Primers used for T. cruzi detection were Tc189Fw2 (5′-CCAACGCTCCGGGAAAAC-3′) and Tc189Rv3 (5′-GCGTCTTCTCAGTATGGACTT-3′), and those used for T. rangeli were TrF3 (5′-CCCCATACAAAACACCCTT-3′) and TrR8 (5′-TGGAATGACGGTGCGGCGAC-3′).

PFGE was performed in a BioRad CHEF Mapper system, as previously described7 with pulses of 6V/cm and 46.47s for 33h 36 min. Analysis of chromosomal bands shared between clonal lineages and parental strains was conducted with the GelCompar II Program (Applied Maths, Kortrijk, Belgium) with the following conditions: Dice (Opt.1.00%) (Tol 1.0%-1.0%) (H>0.0% S>0.0%)[0.0%-100.0%].

Colonies of T. cruzi and mixed strains became macroscopically visible beginning ten days after plating. There were no differences observed in the time before colony appearance among T. cruzi strains or mixtures of strains (10-12 days). T. rangeli colonies, however, were only observed 21 days after incubation. The plating efficiency of various strains on SSL-HU plates varied from 5.1 to 9.6% (Table 1). Colonies were generally transparent or whitish and differed in size. When observed by microscopy, the colonies revealed epimastigotes with normal structures and active flagellar movement. In addition to SSL-HU plates, epimastigotes were also plated with 1.0% (w/v) bacteriological agar instead of noble agar and in SSL with no HU. No colonies were detected in plates prepared without HU, using either noble or bacteriological agar (Table 1). When HU was added to plates with 1.0% BA, the plating efficiency was very low (0.3-1.2%) compared to that of plates made with noble agar and HU (Table 1).

Table 1 Number of Trypanosoma cruzi and Trypanosoma rangeli colonies obtained after incubation in semisolid liver infusion tryptose media with noble agar or bacteriological agar, with or without supplementation with 3% human urine. 

SSL: semisolid LIT; HU: human urine; BA: bacteriological agar; Tr: Trypanosoma rangeli; Tc: Trypanosoma cruzi; NP: not performed; LIT: liver infusion tryptose; BOD incubator: biochemical oxygen demand incubator. aPercentage of T. cruzi or T. rangeli colonies obtained. 1,000 epimastigote forms were spread on each plate and incubated at 28°C in a BOD incubator. bSemisolid LIT medium prepared with 1.0% (w/v) noble agar and 3% (v/v) HU. cSemisolid LIT medium prepared with 1.0% (w/v) noble agar with no HU added. dSemisolid LIT medium prepared with 1.0% (w/v) bacteriological agar (BA) and 3% (v/v) HU. eSemisolid LIT medium prepared with 1.0% (w/v) bacteriological agar (BA) with no HU added.

PCR analysis allowed the identification of DNA bands obtained from T. cruzi (100bp) and T. rangeli (170bp) colonies present on the same plates (Figure 1). In mixed platings (T. cruzi/T. rangeli), only T. cruzi colonies were detected (Figure 1).

Figure 1 PCR amplification of a 100-bp fragment of the telomeric Trypanosoma cruzi region and a 170-bp fragment of the subtelomeric Trypanosoma rangeli region from clones obtained by plating of individual parasite strains (Y, JG, RN1, P07, and SO29) and from clones obtained by mixed plating (samples 1 and 2: JG/SO29; 3 and 4: JG/P07; 5 and 6: Y/P07; 7 and 8: Y/SO29; 9 and 10: RN1/P07) in semisolid medium. The MM used was a 100-bp DNA ladder (Invitrogen). MM: molecular marker; NC: negative control; bp: base pair; PCR: polymerase chain reaction. 

PFGE allows the determination of the molecular karyotypes of the parasites in each colony, permitting their association with the respective parental strain. On mixed plates with T. cruzi (JG strain) and T. rangeli (SO29/P07), only T. cruzi was rescued (Figure 2A and Figure 2B), confirming the telomeric PCR data. Mixed plates containing the JG and RN1 strains of T. cruzi resulted in clones belonging to both parental strains (Figure 2C), as demonstrated by the karyotype profiles. Those containing the T. cruzi Y and RN1 strains, however, only resulted in Y strain colonies (Figure 2D). Similarly, when the Y strain was cultivated with the JG strain, only JG was rescued (Figure 2E). This may be due to the number of colonies analyzed, since other T. cruzi mixed platings provided colonies from both strains (Figure 2C).

Figure 2 Ethidium bromide-stained 1% agarose gels showing Trypanosoma cruzi and Trypanosoma rangeli chromosomes separated by PFGE. Lambda DNA concatemers (BioLabs, Ontario, Canada) (panel A) and Saccharomyces cerevisiae chromosomes (BioLabs) (panels B-E) were used as size markers (M). Figures below each gel show the results of the GelCompar II analysis of chromosomal bands shared between clonal lineages and parental strains. Kb: kilo base pairs; PFGE: pulsed-field gel electrophoresis. 

In this study, the use of SSL-HU medium resulted in the growth of a large number of T. cruzi and T. rangeli colonies. In liquid media, the addition of HU leads to similar growth rates of T. cruzi and T. rangeli when they are independently cultivated5. HU has also been successfully used for cultivation of several Leishmania spp. isolates10. Here, we also obtained similar plating efficiencies for T. cruzi and T. rangeli when they were independently plated in SSL medium supplemented with HU. When plates were prepared by mixing T. cruzi and T. rangeli strains, however, only T. cruzi colonies were observed, as revealed by PCR and PFGE. These results confirm that SSL-HU medium favors T. cruzi growth, as previously observed. In a previous study3, when triatomine feces from Rhodnius prolixus were plated, colonies from both species were obtained; however, the number of T. rangeli colonies was lower than that of T. cruzi. In our study, the difference in time required for colony appearance between T. cruzi (approximately 12 days) and T. rangeli (21 days) explains the reason that T. cruzi colonies predominate on mixed plates. Differences in the growth curves of T. cruzi and T. rangeli have been described previously5 and may explain the presence of only T. cruzi colonies on mixed T. cruzi/T. rangeli plates.

No colonies were detected on plates prepared with SSL without HU, suggesting that the presence of a component of HU promotes T. cruzi and T. rangeli growth5. Taken together, these results point to differences in the metabolisms of these parasites that can be assessed with comparative genomics11.

Our results confirm that SSL-HU medium allows the isolation of clonal parasite lineages. Even when seeded on the same plate, trypanosomatids formed isolated colonies, each with a specific molecular karyotype. As mentioned previously, other studies have assessed the growth of T. cruzi on BLAB2 or double-layered3 media, resulting in plating efficiencies comparable to those in this study. Thus, depending on the aim of the study, SSL-HU can be used as an alternative to these other media. SSL-HU, in particular, is simple to make, and HU is free, easily available, and can be obtained without invasive methods. In studies in which the genetic background of the parasites is not known, techniques with higher discriminatory power, such as microsatellite analysis12) (13) (14 and multilocus sequence typing (MLST)15, may be required to identify all clones present in a parasite population. Future studies should compare the results obtained with SSL-HU with those of other media and investigate the HU factor that supports parasite growth. SSL-HU medium is a new alternative for the isolation of T. cruzi and T. rangeli clonal lines, opening new avenues for genetic studies in these organisms.


The authors would like to thank the members of the Laboratório Multiusuário, Universidade Federal do Triângulo Mineiro (UFTM) for the use of their Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) apparatus.


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Financial Support

This study was supported by the Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa de Minas Gerais (FAPEMIG): APQ-00613-13 and Fundação de Ensino e Pesquisa de Uberaba (FUNEPU): 932/10.

Fajardo EF is a recipient of the Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq) fellowship

Received: June 22, 2015; Accepted: May 11, 2016

Corresponding author: Dr. André Luiz Pedrosa. e-mail:

The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest

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