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Physalins B and F, seco-steroids isolated from Physalis angulata L., strongly inhibit proliferation, ultrastructure and infectivity of Trypanosoma cruzi



We previously observed that physalins have immunomodulatory properties, as well as antileishmanial and antiplasmodial activities. Here, we investigated the anti-Trypanosoma cruzi activity of physalins B, D, F and G. We found that physalins B and F were the most potent compounds against trypomastigote and epimastigote forms of T. cruzi. Electron microscopy of trypomastigotes incubated with physalin B showed disruption of kinetoplast, alterations in Golgi apparatus and endoplasmic reticulum, followed by the formation of myelin-like figures, which were stained with MDC to confirm their autophagic vacuole identity. Physalin B-mediated alteration in Golgi apparatus was likely due to T. cruzi protease perturbation; however physalins did not inhibit activity of the trypanosomal protease cruzain. Flow cytometry examination showed that cell death is mainly caused by necrosis. Treatment with physalins reduced the invasion process, as well as intracellular parasite development in macrophage cell culture, with a potency similar to benznidazole. We observed that a combination of physalins and benznidazole has a greater anti-T. cruzi activity than when compounds were used alone. These results indicate that physalins, specifically B and F, are potent and selective trypanocidal agents. They cause structural alterations and induce autophagy, which ultimately lead to parasite cell death by a necrotic process.


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*Corresponding author. Fundação Oswaldo Cruz, Centro de Pesquisas Gonçalo Moniz. Rua Waldemar Falcão, 121, Candeal, Salvador, Bahia, 40296-710, Brazil. E-mail:


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