Metabolic signatures of triatomine vectors of Trypanosoma cruzi unveiled by metabolomics

PLoS One. 2013 Oct 30;8(10):e77283. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0077283. eCollection 2013.


Chagas disease is a trypanosomiasis whose causative agent is the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, which is transmitted to humans by hematophagous insects known as triatomines and affects a large proportion of South America. The digestive tract of the insect vectors in which T. cruzi develops constitutes a dynamic environment that affects the development of the parasite. Thus, we set out to investigate the chemical composition of the triatomine intestinal tract through a metabolomics approach. We performed Direct Infusion Fourier Transform Ion Cyclotron Resonance Mass Spectrometry on fecal samples of three triatomine species (Rhodnius prolixus, Triatoma infestans, Panstrongylus megistus) fed with rabbit blood. We then identified groups of metabolites whose frequencies were either uniform in all species or enriched in each of them. By querying the Human Metabolome Database, we obtained putative identities of the metabolites of interest. We found that a core group of metabolites with uniform frequencies in all species represented approximately 80% of the molecules detected, whereas the other 20% varied among triatomine species. The uniform core was composed of metabolites of various categories, including fatty acids, steroids, glycerolipids, nucleotides, sugars, and others. Nevertheless, the metabolic fingerprint of triatomine feces differs depending on the species considered. The variable core was mainly composed of prenol lipids, amino acids, glycerolipids, steroids, phenols, fatty acids and derivatives, benzoic acid and derivatives, flavonoids, glycerophospholipids, benzopyrans, and quinolines. Triatomine feces constitute a rich and varied chemical medium whose constituents are likely to affect T. cruzi development and infectivity. The complexity of the fecal metabolome of triatomines suggests that it may affect triatomine vector competence for specific T. cruzi strains. Knowledge of the chemical environment of T. cruzi in its invertebrate host is likely to generate new ways to understand the factors influencing parasite proliferation as well as methods to control Chagas disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cyclotrons
  • Feces / chemistry
  • Feces / parasitology
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / metabolism
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / parasitology
  • Host Specificity
  • Host-Parasite Interactions
  • Humans
  • Insect Vectors / metabolism*
  • Insect Vectors / parasitology
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods
  • Metabolome*
  • Panstrongylus / metabolism*
  • Panstrongylus / parasitology
  • Rabbits
  • Rhodnius / metabolism*
  • Rhodnius / parasitology
  • Triatoma / metabolism*
  • Triatoma / parasitology
  • Trypanosoma cruzi / metabolism*
  • Trypanosomiasis / parasitology