, Volume 78, Issue 2, pp 107-122

Morphogenesis throughout saprobic and parasitic cycles of Coccidioides immitis

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Abstract

The fungus, Coccidioides immitis, differs from other dimorphic pathogens in that its parasitic stage is a complex morphogenic cycle, raising the question that changes in structure and composition during morphogenesis might influence host responses. As a prelude to examining the interaction of fungal morphogenesis and host responses, the life cycle of this fungus has been examined in greater detail than previously accomplished. During saprobic development, alternating enterothallic arthroconidia are formed as infectious propagules. The outer wall is broken and loosely adherent. Under in vitro conditions supporting the parasitic cycle, multinucleate arthroconidia transform into uninucleate round cells. Rapid, synchronous, nuclear replication is initiated, accompanied by increase in cell mass and deposition of new cell wall substance. As karyokinesis ceases, morphologic differentiation begins with invagination of the inner layers of the spherule wall and then is progressive, eventually segmenting the protoplasm into uninucleate endospores grouped in clusters within a hyaline membrane. Endospores, escaping through a break in the spherule wall, are held in aggregates by fibrils which are stretched and broken as endospores separate. It would seem that rapid production of hundreds of progeny from an original single cell, protected during development by an enclosing spherule wall and then released in clusters, should favor establishment of the fungus in a host, and dynamic changes in the cell wall during morphogenesis should influence the host response.