Ultrastructural and physiological changes induced by different stress conditions on the human parasite Trypanosoma cruzi

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Trypanosoma cruzi is the etiological agent of Chagas disease. The life cycle of this protozoan parasite is digenetic because it alternates its different developmental forms through two hosts, a vector insect and a vertebrate host. As a result, the parasites are exposed to sudden and drastic environmental changes causing cellular stress. The stress response to some types of stress has been studied in T. cruzi, mainly at the molecular level; however, data about ultrastructure and physiological state of the cells in stress conditions are scarce or null. In this work, we analyzed the morphological, ultrastructural, and physiological changes produced on T. cruzi epimastigotes when they were exposed to acid, nutritional, heat, and oxidative stress. Clear morphological changes were observed, but the physiological conditions varied depending on the type of stress. The maintenance of the physiological state was severely affected by heat shock, acidic, nutritional, and oxidative stress. According to the surprising observed growth recovery after damage by stress alterations, different adaptations from the parasite to these harsh conditions were suggested. Particular cellular death pathways are discussed.

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This work was supported by DGAPA, UNAM, grant number IN206512. PMD received a scholarship from CONACYT during her PhD studies. We thank Dr. Ruben Arroyo-Olarte for his valuable comments and the help in the English review.

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Correspondence to Bertha Espinoza.

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Pérez-Morales, D., Hernández, K.D.R., Martínez, I. et al. Ultrastructural and physiological changes induced by different stress conditions on the human parasite Trypanosoma cruzi . Cell Stress and Chaperones 22, 15–27 (2017).

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  • Trypanosoma cruzi
  • Stress
  • Physiological damage
  • Apoptosis