The lectin concanavalin A (Con A) was used as a model probe to study the behavior of molecules bound to the surface of recently transformed schistosomula of Schistosoma mansoni. Con A binding was saturable (150-180 pg/organism) and specifically competed by alpha-methyl mannoside. Both FITC-Con A and 125-I-Con A were lost from the surface of schistosomula with a halftime of 8-10 h in culture in defined medium. A comparable decrease in the binding of Con A to schistosomula cultured and then labeled with the lectin indicated that the labeling procedure itself was not inducing the observed change. Internalization of Con A was not seen by either fluorescence microscopy or electron microscope radioautography. In addition, 70-80% of the radioactivity lost from the parasite was recoverable by TCA precipitation from the culture medium as intact Con A (27,000 mol wt on SDS PAGE). Thus, the mechanism of clearance of bound Con A from the surface of cultured schistosomula is apparently by sloughing of Con A molecules intact into the culture media and not by endocytosis and degradation. Con A binding sites, visualized with hemocyanin by scanning electron microscopy, appeared homogeneously distributed over the surface of schistosomula when organisms were labeled at 4 degree C or after fixation with glutaraldehyde. However, Con A and hemocyanin formed aggregates on the surface of schistosomula when labeling was performed at 37 degrees C, which suggests that lectin binding sites have lateral mobility within the plane of the membrane. These aggregates are likely independent of metabolism by the parasite because aggregation also occurs on the surface of organisms killed with azide.

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