Mechanism of intrusion of a microspordian-like organism into the nucleus of host amoebae (Vannella sp.) isolated from a keratitis patient
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Free-living amoebae (FLA) occur ubiquitously in many aquatic habitats and humid soils as well as in “artificial” water samples. In addition to their role as pathogens, FLA are known to serve as natural hosts and vehicles of transmission for various intracellular organisms. An otherwise healthy 24-year-old female patient presented with keratitis in her inflamed left eye. She was a contact lens wearer and had no history of corneal trauma. No acanthamoebae could be determined by culture methods. A Vannella strain (called VanAun0) isolated from corneal scrapings showed intracellular aggregating organisms. Within 1–2 days, the host amoebae ruptured, and numerous coccoid organisms (called Kaun1) were released. We succeeded in detecting the mechanisms of infection and intrusion of this eukaryotic organism, growing within the nucleus of the FLA, by light and electron microscopy. It could be shown that the spores at the cell membrane of strain KAun1 resemble Microsporidia and were taken up into the Amoeba by phagocytosis after adhesion of the spores and food cup formation (infective phase). The spores were transported into the cytoplasm of the vannellae in food vacuoles. Phase contrast microscopy revealed early stages of the parasites moving through the cytoplasm into the nucleus of the host amoeba. Electron microscopy showed the proliferation of polymorphic stages within the karyoplasm. The life cycle of these microsporidian-like organisms ended up with a sporogenic phase in which a terminal differentiation took place and numerous spores were released by rupture of the host cell wall. With the rupture of the host amoeba’s cell membrane, the cycle started again from the beginning, the released infectious spores being ingested by other host amoebae. In particular, the morphology of the organelles made visible by electron microscopy finally allowed us to classify the endocytobionts as a microsporidan-like organism. Infection of Vannella sp. with the microsporidia-like organism strain KAun1 is a suitable model for studying the host–parasite relations of organisms using their hosts as so-called Trojan horses.
KeywordsKeratitis Polar Filament Food Vacuole Contact Lens Wearer Acanthamoeba Keratitis
I thank Dr. Michel and Prof. Dr. Zöller for advice and discussion and Mrs Gerhild Gmeiner for her technical assistance in electron microscopy (head of the electron microscopy department: Dr. B. Hauröder).
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