Assembly of the Leishmania amazonensis flagellum during cell differentiation

J Struct Biol. 2013 Nov;184(2):280-92. doi: 10.1016/j.jsb.2013.09.006. Epub 2013 Sep 14.


The flagellar cytoskeleton of Leishmania promastigotes contains the canonical 9+2 microtubular axoneme and a filamentous structure, the paraflagellar rod (PFR), which is present alongside the axoneme. In contrast to promastigotes, which contain a long and motile flagellum, the amastigote form of Leishmania displays a short flagellum without a PFR that is limited to the flagellar pocket domain. Here, we investigated the biogenesis of the Leishmania flagellum at 0, 4, 6 and 24h of differentiation. Light and electron microscopy observations of the early stages of L. amazonensis differentiation showed that the intermediate forms presented a short and wider flagellum that did not contain a PFR and presented reduced motion. 3D-reconstruction analysis of electron tomograms revealed the presence of vesicles and electron-dense aggregates at the tip of the short flagellum. In the course of differentiation, cells were able to adhere and proliferate with a doubling time of about 6h. The new flagellum emerged from the flagellar pocket around 4h after initiation of cell cycle. Close contact between the flagellar membrane and the flagellar pocket membrane was evident in the intermediate forms. At a later stage of differentiation, intermediate cells exhibited a longer flagellum (shorter than in promastigotes) that contained a PFR and electron dense aggregates in the flagellar matrix. In some cells, PFR profiles were observed inside the flagellar pocket. Taken together, these data contribute to the understanding of flagellum biogenesis and organisation during L. amazonensis differentiation.

Keywords: 3D Reconstruction; Differentiation; E-PTA; Electron microscopy; Flagellum; IFT; Leishmania amazonensis; PFR; Paraflagellar rod; ethanolic phosphotungstic acid; intraflagellar transport; paraflagellar rod.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Nucleus / ultrastructure
  • Flagella / metabolism*
  • Flagella / ultrastructure
  • Humans
  • Leishmania / physiology*
  • Leishmania / ultrastructure
  • Leishmaniasis / parasitology
  • Macrophages / parasitology
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission
  • Mitochondria / ultrastructure