The application of the atomic force microscope to studies of medically important protozoan parasites

James A. Dvorak, Seiki Kobayashi, Abe Kazuhiro, Tatsushi Fujiwara, Tsutomu Takeuchi, Eriko Nagao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Both living and fixed specimens of the medically-important parasitic protozoa, Trypanosoma cruzi, Toxoplasma gondii, Giardia lamblia, Entamoeba histolytica, and Acanthamoeba spp. were studied by atomic force microscopy (AFM). The preparation of fixed specimens was similar to methods used for either scanning or transmission electron microscopy. AFM scanning was performed using both contact and tapping modes. A classical fixation procedure utilizing glutaraldehyde followed by ethanol dehydration was not suitable for all parasite species. AFM images could not be obtained from fixed samples of T. cruzi, T. gondii or E. histolytica. However, excellent topographic images could be obtained from specimens of G. lamblia and Acanthamoeba under identical conditions. Critical point drying permitted AFM imaging of both trypomastigote and epimastigote stages of T. cruzi. Phase imaging of T. cruzi elucidated unique surface details at a level of resolution not visible using any other imaging modalities. AFM elasticity map imaging of T. cruzi-infected and T. gondii-infected cells demonstrated that both parasites were markedly firmer than the surrounding host cell cytoplasm. The parasitophorous vacuole surrounding replicating T. gondii tachyzoites was also visualized by elasticity map imaging. These data suggest that although much remains to be learned about preparing parasitic protozoa for AFM imaging, the technique has the potential of providing unique and important insights into these disease causing organisms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)429-435
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Electron Microscopy
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Atomic force microscopy
  • Contact mode
  • Elasticity map imaging
  • Parasitic protozoa
  • Phase imaging
  • Preparative protocols
  • Tapping mode

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Instrumentation


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