The peripheral vesicles of trophozoites of the primitive protozoan Giardia lamblia may correspond to early and late endosomes and to lysosomes

J Struct Biol. 1998 Nov;123(3):225-35. doi: 10.1006/jsbi.1998.4035.


Giardia lamblia, a primitive eukaryotic cell, lacks organelles such as mitochondria, peroxisomes, and a typical Golgi complex and presents a system of vesicles located below the plasma membrane. We used fluorescence and electron microscopy to better characterize the peripheral vesicles. Incubation of living cells with acridine orange showed that the peripheral vesicles correspond to an acidic compartment. Incubation with lucifer yellow, and with horseradish peroxidase, showed labeling of the peripheral vesicles even after several hours. Acid phosphatase was localized in the endoplasmic reticulum and in most of the peripheral vesicles. On the other hand, glucose 6-phosphatase, an endoplasmic reticulum marker, was observed in the endoplasmic reticulum cisternae and in some peripheral vesicles. A similar labeling pattern was observed using the zinc iodide technique, which reveals SH-containing proteins. Three-dimensional reconstruction and electron microscopy tomography of cells stained for acid phosphatase and glucose-6-phosphatase revealed the connection between some vesicles and profiles of the endoplasmic reticulum. Taken together, our observations suggest that trophozoites of G. lamblia present an endosomal-lysosomal system concentrated in a single system, the peripheral vesicles, which may represent an ancient organellar system that later on subdivided into compartments such as early and late endosomes and lysosomes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acid Phosphatase / metabolism
  • Acridine Orange / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / ultrastructure
  • Endosomes / enzymology
  • Endosomes / ultrastructure*
  • Giardia lamblia / ultrastructure*
  • Histocytochemistry
  • Horseradish Peroxidase / metabolism
  • Isoquinolines / metabolism
  • Lysosomes / enzymology
  • Lysosomes / ultrastructure*
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Tomography


  • Biomarkers
  • Isoquinolines
  • lucifer yellow
  • Horseradish Peroxidase
  • Acid Phosphatase
  • Acridine Orange