Phagocytosis plays an important role in the pathogenicity of the intestinal protozoan parasite Entamoeba histolytica. We compared the morphology of phagosomes and the kinetics of phagosome maturation using conventional light and electron microscopy and live imaging with video microscopy between the virulent E. histolytica and the closely-related, but non-virulent E. dispar species. Electron micrographs showed that axenically cultivated trophozoites of the two Entamoeba species revealed morphological differences in the number of bacteria contained in a single phagosome and the size of phagosomes. Video microscopy using pH-sensitive fluorescein isothiocynate-conjugated yeasts showed that phagosome acidification occurs within 2 min and persists for > 12 h in both species. The acidity of phagosomes significantly differed between two species (4.58 ± 0.36 or 5.83 ± 0.38 in E. histolytica or E. dispar, respectively), which correlated well with the differences in the kinetics of degradation of promastigotes of GFP-expressirig Leishmania amazonensis. The acidification of phagosomes was significantly inhibited by a myosin inhibitor, whereas it was only marginally inhibited by microtubules or actin inhibitors. A specific inhibitor of vacuolar ATPase, concanamycin A, interrupted both the acidification and degradation in phagosomes in both species, suggesting the ubiquitous role of vacuolar ATPase in the acidification and degradation in Entamoeba. In contrast, inhibitors against microtubules or cysteine proteases (CP) showed distinct effects on degradation in phagosomes between these two species. Although depolymerization of microtubules severely inhibited degradation in phagosomes of E. histolytica, it did not affect degradation in E. dispar. Similarly, the inhibition of CP significantly reduced degradation in phagosomes of E. histolytica, but not in E. dispar. These data suggest the presence of biochemical or functional differences in the involvement of microtubules and proteases in phagosome maturation and degradation between the two species.
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