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<jats:p>The surface coat of the infective larvae of the parasitic nematode <jats:italic>Trichinella spiralis</jats:italic> was characterized with respect to its biophysical properties, morphology and composition. Labelling of larvae with the fluorescent surface probe PKH26 was lost after activation (by incubation in mammalian medium containing trypsin and bile), or following pronase treatment. Electron microscopical examination revealed that pronase treatment resulted in the loss of an amorphous surface layer only, further demonstrating the specificity of PKH26 for the larval surface coat. Surface coat shedding was inhibited by sodium azide and carbonyl cyanide, or by incubation of larvae at 4°C, suggesting the shedding process required metabolic energy. Pre-labelled, unactivated larvae demonstrated continuous slow surface coat shedding and could be re-labelled with PKH26, indicating that the shed coat is replaced in these parasites. However, pre-labelled larvae which were activated failed to re-label with the probe, suggesting that activation provides an irreversible trigger for surface changes. PKH26, therefore, is a useful marker for larval activation. Examination of the shed coat material by scanning electron microscopy revealed 2 types of morphologies; one comprising thin multilaminate sheets and the other of amorphous material with ridges producing a fingerprint-like motif. Western- and lectin-blotting of the shed coat material demonstrated 2 prominent entities; a 90 kDa glycoprotein, which bound <jats:italic>Datura stramonium</jats:italic> agglutinin and was resistant to <jats:italic>N</jats:italic>- and <jats:italic>O</jats:italic>-glycanase treatment and a 47–60 kDa set of protein(s). Analysis of the surface lipids by electrospray mass spectometry revealed the presence of lysophosphatidic acid (lysoPA, C14[ratio ]2) and an unidentifiable component of 339·4 Da. These two lipids constituted 36·9% and 36% by mass of surface coat lipids respectively. The presence of lysoPA was confirmed by thin layer chromatography, which also detected phosphatidic acid (PA). The polar lipids detected in solvent rinses of intact parasites by electrospray mass spectrometry were PI (C48[ratio ]4), PE (C40[ratio ]4 and C38[ratio ]4), PS (C40[ratio ]4), lysoPC (C20[ratio ]2 and C18[ratio ]2) and lysoPA (C14[ratio ]2). These observations are discussed with respect to the role of the surface coat and its shedding in the <jats:italic>T. spiralis</jats:italic> host–parasite relationship.</jats:p>

Original publication




Journal article




Cambridge University Press (CUP)

Publication Date





509 - 522