The protozoan parasite Trypanosoma cruzi is the causative agent of Chagas disease. The chronic stage of infection is characterized by a production of neutralizing antibodies in the vertebrate host. A polyclonal antibody, anti-egressin, has been found to inhibit egress of parasites from the host cell late in the intracellular cycle, after the parasites have transformed from the replicative amastigote into the trypomastigote. It has also been found that BALB/c mouse fibroblasts in the late stages of parasite infection become permeable to molecules as large as antibodies, leading to the possibility that anti-egressin affects the intracellular parasites. This project addresses the fate of the intracellular trypomastigotes that have been inhibited from egressing the host cell. Extended cultures of infected fibroblasts treated with chronic mouse serum reduced parasite egress at all time points measured. Parasites released from infected fibroblasts treated with chronic serum had a reduced ability to infect fibroblasts in culture, yet did not lose infectivity entirely. Absorption of chronic serum with living trypomastigotes removed the anti-egressin effect. The possibility that the target of anti-egressin is a parasite surface component is further indicated by the agglutination of extracellular trypomastigotes by chronic serum. The possibility that cross-linking by antibody occurs intracellularly, thus inhibiting egress, was reinforced by cleaving purified IgG into Fab fragments, which did not inhibit egress when added to infected cultures. From this work, it is proposed that the current, best explanation of the mechanism of egress inhibition by anti-egressin is intracellular agglutination, preventing normal parasite-driven egress.

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