Chew on this: amoebic trogocytosis and host cell killing by Entamoeba histolytica

Trends Parasitol. 2015 Sep;31(9):442-52. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2015 Jun 9.


Entamoeba histolytica was named 'histolytica' (from histo-, 'tissue'; lytic-, 'dissolving') for its ability to destroy host tissues. Direct killing of host cells by the amoebae is likely to be the driving factor that underlies tissue destruction, but the mechanism was unclear. We recently showed that, after attaching to host cells, amoebae bite off and ingest distinct host cell fragments, and that this contributes to cell killing. We review this process, termed 'amoebic trogocytosis' (trogo-, 'nibble'), and how this process interplays with phagocytosis, or whole cell ingestion, in this organism. 'Nibbling' processes have been described in other microbes and in multicellular organisms. The discovery of amoebic trogocytosis in E. histolytica may also shed light on an evolutionarily conserved process for intercellular exchange.

Keywords: Entamoeba; cell death; cytotoxic; phagocytosis; trogocytosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Shape
  • Cell Size
  • Cell Survival
  • Entamoeba histolytica / physiology*
  • Entamoebiasis / parasitology*
  • Entamoebiasis / pathology*
  • Host-Parasite Interactions / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Phagocytosis