We studied the adherence of human erythrocytes to larvae of the intravascular parasite Schistosoma mansoni by transmission microscopy, freeze fracture, and fluorescence techniques. In addition, we used the adherent cells to investigate the problem of host antigen acquisition. Schistosomula were cultured for from 24 to 48 h after transformation in order to clear the remnants of the cercarial glycocalyx. In some cases, the worms were preincubated with wheat germ agglutinin to promote adherence of the erythrocytes. The results were similar with and without the lectin except that more cells attached to the lectin-coated parasites. Erythrocytes adhered within a few hours and, unlike neutrophils, did not fuse with the parasite. A layer of 10-20-nm electron dense material separated the outer leaflets of the tegumental and plasma membranes. In addition, many deformed and lysed cells were seen on the parasite surface. The ability of the worm to acquire erythrocyte membrane constituents was tested with carbocyanine dyes, fluorescein covalently conjugated to glycophorin, monoclonal antibodies against B and H blood group glycolipids, and rabbit alpha-human erythrocyte IgG. In summary, glycophorin, erythrocyte proteins, and glycolipids were not transferred to the parasite membrane within 48 h. Carbocyanine dyes were rapidly transferred to the parasite with or without lectin preincubation. Thus, the dye in the worm membrane came from both adherent and nonadherent cells. These studies suggest that, in the absence of membrane fusion, the parasite may acquire some lipid molecules similar in structure to host membrane glycolipids by simple transfer through the medium but that B and H glycolipids and erythrocyte membrane proteins are not transferred from adhering cells to the worm.

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