Kinematic analysis of Toxoplasma gondii motility

Cell Motil Cytoskeleton. 1996;34(2):152-63. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1097-0169(1996)34:2<152::AID-CM6>3.0.CO;2-D.


Toxoplasma gondii tachyzoites execute a complex and little understood combination of rapid movements to reach and penetrate human or other animals cells. In the present study, computer-assisted simulation was used to quantitatively analyze the motility of these parasites in three-dimensional space with spatial and temporal resolutions in the micrometer and subsecond ranges. A digital model based on electron-micrographs of a serially sectioned tachyzoite was animated according to a videomicrographed sequence of a characteristic repetitive movement. Keyframe animation defined over 150 frames by a total of 36 kinematic parameters for specific motions, of both the whole model and particular domains, resulted in a real-time life-like simulation of the videorecorded tachyzoite movement. The kinematic values indicate that a full revolution of the model is composed of three half-turns accomplished in nearly 5 s with two phases: a relatively slow 180 degrees tilting with regard to the substratum plane, followed by fast (over 200 degrees/s) spinning almost simultaneous with pivoting around the posterior end, each clockwise and for about 180 degrees. Maximal flexing of the body, as well as bowing and retraction of its anterior end, occur at midway during the tilting phase. An estimated 70 degrees. clockwise torsion of the body seems to precede the spinning-pivoting phase. The results suggest the operation of two basic forces in the motility of T. gondii tachyzoites: (1) a clockwise torque that causes torsion, spinning, and pivoting; and (2) a longitudinal pull that contracts, bends and tilts the parasite. We discuss the possibility that both of these forces might result from the action of an actin-myosin system enveloping the twisted framework of microtubules characteristic of these organisms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Movement
  • Female
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Microscopy, Video
  • Toxoplasma / cytology
  • Toxoplasma / physiology*
  • Toxoplasma / ultrastructure