The cytoskeleton of Giardia lamblia

Int J Parasitol. 2003 Jan;33(1):3-28. doi: 10.1016/s0020-7519(02)00228-x.


Giardia lamblia is a ubiquitous intestinal pathogen of mammals. Evolutionary studies have also defined it as a member of one of the earliest diverging eukaryotic lineages that we are able to cultivate and study in the laboratory. Despite early recognition of its striking structure resembling a half pear endowed with eight flagella and a unique ventral disk, a molecular understanding of the cytoskeleton of Giardia has been slow to emerge. Perhaps most importantly, although the association of Giardia with diarrhoeal disease has been known for several hundred years, little is known of the mechanism by which Giardia exacts such a toll on its host. What is clear, however, is that the flagella and disk are essential for parasite motility and attachment to host intestinal epithelial cells. Because peristaltic flow expels intestinal contents, attachment is necessary for parasites to remain in the small intestine and cause diarrhoea, underscoring the essential role of the cytoskeleton in virulence. This review presents current day knowledge of the cytoskeleton, focusing on its role in motility and attachment. As the advent of new molecular technologies in Giardia sets the stage for a renewed focus on the cytoskeleton and its role in Giardia virulence, we discuss future research directions in cytoskeletal function and regulation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cytoskeleton / physiology
  • Cytoskeleton / ultrastructure*
  • Flagella / ultrastructure
  • Giardia lamblia / pathogenicity
  • Giardia lamblia / ultrastructure*
  • Protozoan Proteins / physiology
  • Virulence


  • Protozoan Proteins