Cercariae, the freshwater stage of Schistosoma mansoni infectious to man, are covered by a single unit membrane and an immunogenic glycocalyx. When cercariae penetrate the host skin, they transform to schistosomula by shedding tails, secreting mucous and enzymes, and forming microvilli over their surface. Here the loss of the glycocalyx from cercariae transforming in vitro was studied morphologically and biochemically. By scanning electron microscopy, the glycocalyx was a dense mesh composed of 15-30 nm fibrils that obscured spines on the cercarial surface. The glycocalyx was absent on organisms fixed without osmium and was partially lost when parasites aggregated in their own secretions before fixation. By transmission electron microscopy, a 1-2 microns thick mesh of 8-15-nm fibrils was seen on parasites incubated with anti-schistosomal antibodies or fixed in aldehydes containing tannic acid or ruthenium red. Cercariae transformed to schistosomula when tails were removed mechanically and parasites were incubated in saline. Within 5 min of transformation, organisms synchronously formed microvilli which elongated to 3-5 microns by 20 min and then were shed. However, considerable fibrillar material remained adherent to the double unit membrane surface of schistosomula. For biochemical labeling, parasites were treated with eserine sulfate, which blocked cercarial swimming, secretion, infectivity, and transformation to schistosomula. Material labeled by periodate oxidation and NaB3H4 was on the surface as shown by autoradiography and had an apparent molecular weight of greater than 10(6) by chromatography. Periodate-NaB3H4 glycocalyx had an isoelectric point of 5.0 +/- 0.4 and was precipitable with anti-schistosomal antibodies. More than 60% of the radiolabeled glycocalyx was released into the medium by transforming parasites in 3 h and was recovered as high molecular weight material. Parasites labeled with periodate and fluorescein-thiosemicarbazide and then transformed had a corona of fluorescence containing microvilli, much of which was shed onto the slide. Material on cercariae labeled by lodogen-catalyzed iodination was also of high molecular weight and was antigenic. In conclusion, the cercarial glycocalyx appears to be composed of acidic high molecular weight fibrils which are antigenic and incompletely cleared during transformation.

This content is only available as a PDF.