Trypomastigotes of Trypanosoma cruzi have to invade mammalian cells in order to multiply. They bear on their plasma membrane a sialic acid-containing epitope (Ssp-3) defined by a series of monoclonal antibodies (mAbs). Previous investigations have shown that Fab fragments of these mAbs inhibit the attachment of trypomastigotes to 3T3 fibroblasts. To further define the role of Ssp-3 in invasion, here we use, as targets for infection, L cells and CHO cells stably transfected with cDNA coding for the mouse Fc receptors genes. When the trypomastigotes are incubated with small, nonagglutinating amounts of antibodies to Ssp-3, their attachment to the transfected cells is greatly enhanced, without a parallel increase in invasion. The enhancement in attachment is Fc mediated, since it is abolished by treatment of the transfected cells with mAbs to Fc receptors. In contrast, both attachment to, and invasion of, the transfected cells are increased if the parasites are incubated with polyclonal or monoclonal antibodies against T. cruzi surface membrane antigens other than Ssp-3. If, however, antibodies to Ssp-3 are added to the incubation mixtures containing any of the other anti-T. cruzi antibodies, the enhancement of invasion (but not of attachment) is reversed. These results suggest that Ssp-3-bearing molecules participate in the process of parasite internalization.

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