Rhoptries are organelles that have important, complex roles in Apicomplexa biology. During Toxoplasma gondii infection, these organelles take part in several essential and complex processes that include host cell entry and parasite development. Using different electron microscopy techniques, we characterized the fine morphology of the rhoptries of two of the most important life stages of T. gondii: the tachyzoite and the bradyzoite forms. The observed tachyzoite and bradyzoite rhoptries had delimited regions characterized by a dark and electron-dense neck, an amorphous and less electron-dense bulb, and a region of intermediate electron density, which connects the bulb to the neck. Metal replicas of frozen-fractured tachyzoites showed intramembranous particles of different densities and sizes on the fractured faces of rhoptry membranes. Both in tachyzoites and bradyzoites, the intramembranous particles were arranged in distinctive parallel arrays that decorated most part of these organelles. Tubulo-vesicular subcompartments and free particles within the rhoptry lumen were observed on freeze-fractured replicas. Cryo-fixed, deep-etched samples showed several pore-like structures localized in the bulb portion. No obvious evidence was found of a possible connection between rhoptries and micronemes.
Keywords: Toxoplasma; cryo-techniques; freeze-fracture; quick-freeze/deep-etching; rhoptry.
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