Histochemistry and Cell Biology

, Volume 120, Issue 2, pp 129–141 | Cite as

Hydrogen peroxide induces caspase activation and programmed cell death in the amitochondrial Tritrichomonas foetus

  • Rafael M. Mariante
  • Cinthya A. Guimarães
  • Rafael Linden
  • Marlene BenchimolEmail author
Original Paper


Tritrichomonas foetus is an amitochondrial parasite protist which lacks typical eukaryote organelles such as mitochondria and peroxisomes, but possesses the hydrogenosome, a double-membrane-bound organelle that produces ATP. The cell death of amitochondrial organisms is poorly studied. In the present work, the cytotoxic effects of hydrogen peroxide on T. foetus and its participation on cell death were analyzed. We took advantage of several microscopy techniques, including videomicroscopy, light microscopy immunocytochemistry for detection of caspase activation, and scanning and transmission electron microscopy. We report here that in T. foetus: (1) H2O2 leads to loss of motility and induces cell death, (2) the dying cells exhibit some characteristics similar to those found during the death of other organisms, and (3) a caspase-like protein seems to be activated during the death process. Thus, we propose that, although T. foetus does not present mitochondria nor any known pathways of cell death, it is likely that it bears mechanisms of cell demise. T. foetus exhibits morphological and physiological alterations in response to H2O2 treatment. The hydrogenosome, a unique organelle which is supposed to share a common ancestral origin with mitochondria and has an important role in oxidative responses in trichomonads, is a candidate for participating in this event.


Tritrichomonas foetus Programmed cell death Hydrogen peroxide Caspase-3-like protein Hydrogenosomes 



Terminal deoxyribonucleotide transferase (TdT)-mediated dUTP nick-end labeling


Poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase


4′,6-Diamidino-2-phenylindole dihydrochloride



The authors thank Dr. Anu Srinivasan (Idun Pharmaceuticals, USA) for kindly providing the CM1 polyclonal antibody and Dr. Jose Morgado Diaz for helping with the western blot experiments. This work was supported by CNPq (Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico), PRONEX (Programa de Núcleo de Excelência), FAPERJ (Fundação Carlos Chagas Filho de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado do Rio de Janeiro), CAPES (Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior), and AUSU (Associação Universitária Santa Úrsula). C.A. Guimarães is an EMBO Post Doctoral Fellow. R. Linden is a fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rafael M. Mariante
    • 2
    • 3
  • Cinthya A. Guimarães
    • 4
    • 5
  • Rafael Linden
    • 4
  • Marlene Benchimol
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Rua Jornalista Orlando DantasRio de JaneiroRJ. Brazil
  2. 2.Programa de Ciências MorfológicasUniversidade Federal do Rio de JaneiroRio de JaneiroBrazil
  3. 3.Laboratório de Ultraestrutura CelularUniversidade Santa ÚrsulaRio de JaneiroBrazil
  4. 4.Laboratório de NeurogêneseUniversidade Federal do Rio de JaneiroRio de JaneiroBrazil
  5. 5.Department of Biological Chemistry, Institute of Life SciencesThe Hebrew University of JerusalemJerusalemIsrael

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