The mode of entry and intracellular fate of epimastigotes and trypomastigotes of Trypanosoma cruzi in cultured cells was studied. Electron microscopic observations indicated the uptake by phagocytosis of both forms into mouse peritoneal macrophages and of trypomastigotes and transition forms into other cultured cell types. In each instance the organisms were initially surrounded by a plasma membrane-derived phagosome. Trypsin and chymotrypsin treatment of the macrophages completely abolished attachment and ingestion of both forms, indicating that protease-sensitive structures on the macrophage plasma membrane mediate ingestion. The macrophage Fc or C3b receptors were not essential for uptake of T. cruzi in the conditions used. Cytochalasin B inhibited ingestion but not the attachment of both forms by macrophages. Epimastigotes were not taken up by HeLa, L cells, and calf embryo fibroblasts. In macrophages, epimastigotes were killed and digested within phagolysosomes. In contrast, trypomastigotes and transition forms escaped from the phagocytic vacuole and then multiplied in the cytoplasmic matrix. Amastigotes released from infected cells exhibited properties similar to those of trypomastigotes and were able to enter all cell types studied and multiply intracellularly.

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