Caspase-dependent apoptosis during infection with Cryptosporidium parvum

Microbes Infect. 1999 Dec;1(14):1163-8. doi: 10.1016/s1286-4579(99)00246-4.


The protozoan parasite Cryptosporidium parvum causes persistent diarrhea and malnutrition in children and the diarrhea-wasting syndrome in AIDS. No therapy exists for eliminating the parasite in the absence of a healthy immune response. Although it had been reported that infection of intestinal cell lines with C. parvum leads to host cell death, the mechanisms of cytolysis have not been characterized. We show here that infection with C. parvum leads to typical apoptotic nuclear condensation and DNA fragmentation in host cells. Both nuclear condensation and DNA fragmentation are inhibited by a caspase inhibitor, showing that caspases are involved in this type of apoptosis. Finally, blocking apoptosis with the caspase inhibitor increases the percentage of infected cells, suggesting that parasites may use apoptosis to exit from the infected cell or that the infected cells may eliminate the parasite through apoptosis. These results suggest that apoptosis could be involved in the pathogenesis of C. parvum infections in vivo, and raise the possibility that therapeutic interference with host cell death could alter the course of the pathology in vivo.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Chloromethyl Ketones / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis*
  • Caspase Inhibitors
  • Caspases / physiology*
  • Cell Line
  • Cryptosporidiosis / pathology*
  • Cryptosporidium parvum*
  • Cysteine Proteinase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • DNA Fragmentation
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence


  • Amino Acid Chloromethyl Ketones
  • Caspase Inhibitors
  • Cysteine Proteinase Inhibitors
  • benzyloxycarbonylvalyl-alanyl-aspartyl fluoromethyl ketone
  • Caspases