The protozoan parasite Tritrichomonas foetus displays a pear-shaped form and a pseudocyst stage. However, little is known about the biology of the pseudocyst. The aim of this work was to assess whether pseudocysts exert cytotoxic effects during their interaction with MDCK cells (an epithelial kidney canine cell line) and compare their behavior to that of the pear-shaped parasites. Pseudocysts and pear-shaped parasites from both cultured and freshly isolated T. foetus were used. Electron microscopy revealed that the epithelial cells exhibited more signs of injury, such as depletion of microvilli, retraction from neighboring cells and swollen mitochondria with loss of electron density in the matrix, when the pseudocysts were used in interaction experiments. In addition, during the co-incubation with MDCK cells, pseudocysts exhibited a more intense amoeboid transformation than that found in pear-shaped parasites. The MTT viability assay demonstrated that the pseudocysts were more cytotoxic when in contact with host cells as compared to the flagellated pear-shaped parasites. The JC-1 viability assay revealed that pseudocysts induced a higher loss of mitochondrial membrane potential compared to pear-shaped parasites. Pseudocysts undergoing a budding process were observed after 2.5h of co-incubation with MDCK cells. Our results suggest that the T. foetus pseudocyst might be a more aggressive form.
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