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Iron-modulated pseudocyst formation in Tritrichomonas foetus



Iron is an essential element for the survival of trichomonads during host–parasite interaction. The availability of this metal modulates several metabolic pathways of the parasites and regulates the expression of virulence factors such as adhesins and proteolytic enzymes. In this study, we investigated the effect of iron depletion on the morphology and life cycle of Tritrichomonas foetus. Scanning and transmission electron microscopy analyses revealed that depletion of iron from the culture medium (named TYM-DIP inducer medium) induces morphological transformation of typical pear-shaped trophozoites into spherical and non-motile pseudocysts. Remarkably, inoculation of pseudocysts into an iron-rich medium (standard TYM medium), or addition of FeSO4 to a TYM-DIP inducer medium reverted the morphological transformation process and typical trophozoites were recovered. These results show that pseudocysts are viable forms of the parasite and highlight the role of iron as a modulator of the parasite phenotype. Although iron is required for the survival of T. foetus, iron depletion does not cause a cellular collapse of pseudocysts, but instead induces phenotypic alterations, probably in order to allow the parasite to survive conditions of nutritional stress. Together, these findings support previous studies that suggest pseudocysts are a resistance form in the life cycle of T. foetus and enable new approaches to understanding the multifactorial role of iron in the cell biology of this protozoan parasite.


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*Corresponding author: Departamento de Medicina, Faculdade de Medicina, Universidade Federal de São João del Rei, Campus Dom Bosco, Praça Dom Helvécio, 74, Fabricas. CEP: 36301-160; São João del Rei, MG, Brazil. Phone: (5532) 3379-2592. E-mail:


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