The single mitochondrion of tachyzoites of Toxoplasma gondii

J Struct Biol. 2000 May;130(1):27-33. doi: 10.1006/jsbi.2000.4228.


The infective tachyzoite form of the protozoan Toxoplasma gondii is able to penetrate into vertebrate host cells and to survive and multiply within a cytoplasmic vacuole known as the parasitophorous vacuole. Previous observations, confirmed in the present study, showed that extracellular, but not intravacuolar, tachyzoites are labeled with rhodamine 123, a dye that specifically binds to functional mitochondria, which present a high transmembrane potential. These observations led to the suggestion that intravacuolar tachyzoites do not possess functional mitochondria. However, our present observations using the new dye CMXRos and observation by confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM) showed that the mitochondria of both extracellular and intravacuolar tachyzoites were intensely labeled, indicating that they were functional. In addition, cytochrome c activity could be cytochemically detected in the inner mitochondrial membrane of intravacuolar tachyzoites. Three-dimensional reconstruction of serial optical sections of CMXRos-stained tachyzoites observed by CLSM and of serial thin sections examined by transmission electron microscopy revealed that the protozoan presented only one ramified mitochondrion, reinforcing previous observations by Seeber et al. (1998, Exp. Parasitol. 89, 137-139) Petitprez and Vivier (1972, Protistologica VIII, 199-221).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chlorocebus aethiops
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Mice
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Mitochondria / ultrastructure*
  • Organic Chemicals
  • Rhodamine 123
  • Toxoplasma / growth & development
  • Toxoplasma / pathogenicity
  • Toxoplasma / ultrastructure*
  • Vacuoles / parasitology
  • Vero Cells


  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Organic Chemicals
  • red dye CMXRos
  • Rhodamine 123