The adipocyte as an important target cell for Trypanosoma cruzi infection

J Biol Chem. 2005 Jun 24;280(25):24085-94. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M412802200. Epub 2005 Apr 18.


Adipose tissue plays an active role in normal metabolic homeostasis as well as in the development of human disease. Beyond its obvious role as a depot for triglycerides, adipose tissue controls energy expenditure through secretion of several factors. Little attention has been given to the role of adipocytes in the pathogenesis of Chagas disease and the associated metabolic alterations. Our previous studies have indicated that hyperglycemia significantly increases parasitemia and mortality in mice infected with Trypanosoma cruzi. We determined the consequences of adipocyte infection in vitro and in vivo. Cultured 3T3-L1 adipocytes can be infected with high efficiency. Electron micrographs of infected cells revealed a large number of intracellular parasites that cluster around lipid droplets. Furthermore, infected adipocytes exhibited changes in expression levels of a number of different adipocyte-specific or adipocyte-enriched proteins. The adipocyte is therefore an important target cell during acute Chagas disease. Infection of adipocytes by T. cruzi profoundly influences the pattern of adipokines. During chronic infection, adipocytes may represent an important long-term reservoir for parasites from which relapse of infection can occur. We have demonstrated that acute infection has a unique metabolic profile with a high degree of local inflammation in adipose tissue, hypoadiponectinemia, hypoglycemia, and hypoinsulinemia but with relatively normal glucose disposal during an oral glucose tolerance test.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • 3T3-L1 Cells
  • Adipocytes / metabolism*
  • Adipocytes / parasitology
  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Blotting, Western
  • DNA Primers
  • Hypoglycemia / complications
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Mice
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Trypanosoma cruzi / pathogenicity*
  • Trypanosomiasis / complications
  • Trypanosomiasis / parasitology
  • Trypanosomiasis / pathology*


  • DNA Primers