Macrophage, fibroblast, and HeLa cell cultures have been infected with Toxoplasma gondii, and observations have been made on parasite entry and fate.
A special procedure was devised for studying the entry of toxoplasmas by electron microscopy. Toxoplasmas were centrifuged onto the cells in the cold; fixation 1–3 min after warming yielded specimens showing numerous examples of parasites in the process of entering cells. The mechanism of entry into macrophages, fibroblasts, and HeLa cells was in all cases by phagocytosis. Micropseudopods were extended by the cells to envelop the attached parasites in a typical phagocytic vacuole. Apparently the toxoplasmas stimulated this response of HeLa cells and fibroblasts, cell types not usually phagocytic. No instance was seen of penetration of toxoplasmas through the cell membrane, or of parasites located free in the cytoplasm.
Essentially all of the toxoplasmas that entered HeLa cells divided with a generation time of 9 hr; the parasites formed large rosettes situated in vacuoles, eventually leading to host cell rupture. Macrophages took in larger numbers of toxoplasmas than did HeLa cells, but approximately half of the parasites inside of macrophages degenerated within a few hours. The surviving toxoplasmas in macrophages divided every 8 hr, forming rosettes and eventually rupturing the cells.