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Concept: Amoeboid


Leukocytes and other amoeboid cells change shape as they move, forming highly dynamic, actin-filled pseudopods. Although we understand much about the architecture and dynamics of thin lamellipodia made by slow-moving cells on flat surfaces, conventional light microscopy lacks the spatial and temporal resolution required to track complex pseudopods of cells moving in three dimensions. We therefore employed lattice light sheet microscopy to perform three-dimensional, time-lapse imaging of neutrophil-like HL-60 cells crawling through collagen matrices. To analyze three-dimensional pseudopods we: (i) developed fluorescent probe combinations that distinguish cortical actin from dynamic, pseudopod-forming actin networks, and (ii) adapted molecular visualization tools from structural biology to render and analyze complex cell surfaces. Surprisingly, three-dimensional pseudopods turn out to be composed of thin (<0.75 µm), flat sheets that sometimes interleave to form rosettes. Their laminar nature is not templated by an external surface, but likely reflects a linear arrangement of regulatory molecules. Although we find that Arp2/3-dependent pseudopods are dispensable for three-dimensional locomotion, their elimination dramatically decreases the frequency of cell turning, and pseudopod dynamics increase when cells change direction, highlighting the important role pseudopods play in pathfinding.

Concepts: Euclidean space, Pseudopod, Analytic geometry, Dimension, Protein, DNA, Amoeboid, Eukaryote


To review an Acanthamoeba keratitis case series for the documented extracorneal spread of the amoeba.

Concepts: Keratitis, Amoeba, Amoebozoa, Amoeboid, Acanthamoeba


Acanthamoeba castellanii is a free-living amoeba widely found in environmental matrices such as soil and water. Arcobacter butzleri is an emerging potential zoonotic pathogen that can be isolated from environmental water sources, where they can establish endosymbiotic relationships with amoebas. The aim of this study was to describe the implication of mannose-binding proteins and membrane-associated receptors of glucose and galactose present in the amoebic membrane, during the attachment of Arcobacter butzleri by blocking with different saccharides. Another objective was to describe the signaling pathways involved in phagocytosis of these bacteria using specific inhibitors and analyze the implication of phagolysosome formation on the survival of Arcobacter butzleri inside the amoeba. We infer that the attachment of Arcobacter butzleri to the amoeba is a process which involves the participation of mannose-binding proteins and membrane-associated receptors of glucose and galactose present in the amoeba. We also demonstrated an active role of protozoan actin polymerization in the phagocytosis of Arcobacter butzleri and a critical involvement of PI3K and RhoA pathways. Further, we demonstrated that the tyrosine kinase-induced actin polymerization signal is essential in Acanthamoeba-mediated bacterial uptake. Through phagolysosomal formation analysis, we conclude that the survival of Arcobacter butzleri inside the amoeba could be related with the ability to remain inside vacuoles not fused with lysosomes, or with the ability to retard the fusion between these structures. All these results help the understanding of the bacterial uptake mechanisms used by Acanthamoeba castellanii and contribute to evidence of the survival mechanisms of Arcobacter butzleri.

Concepts: Protist, Signal transduction, Amoeba, Protein, Cell, Amoeboid


Free-living amoebae of the genus Acanthamoeba are causal agents of a severe sight-threatening infection of the cornea known as Acanthamoeba keratitis. Moreover, the number of reported cases worldwide is increasing year after year, mostly in contact lens wearers, although cases have also been reported in non-contact lens wearers. Interestingly, Acanthamoeba keratitis has remained significant, despite our advances in antimicrobial chemotherapy and supportive care. In part, this is due to an incomplete understanding of the pathogenesis and pathophysiology of the disease, diagnostic delays and problems associated with chemotherapeutic interventions. In view of the devastating nature of this disease, here we present our current understanding of Acanthamoeba keratitis and molecular mechanisms associated with the disease, as well as virulence traits of Acanthamoeba that may be potential targets for improved diagnosis, therapeutic interventions and/or for the development of preventative measures. Novel molecular approaches such as proteomics, RNAi and a consensus in the diagnostic approaches for a suspected case of Acanthamoeba keratitis are proposed and reviewed based on data which have been compiled after years of working on this amoebic organism using many different techniques and listening to many experts in this field at conferences, workshops and international meetings. Altogether, this review may serve as the milestone for developing an effective solution for the prevention, control and treatment of Acanthamoeba infections.

Concepts: Amoeboid, Infection, Immune system, Keratitis, Infectious disease, Contact lens, Cornea, Acanthamoeba


Leprosy is a curable neglected disease of humans caused by Mycobacterium leprae that affects the skin and peripheral nerves and manifests clinically in various forms ranging from self-resolving, tuberculoid leprosy to lepromatous leprosy having significant pathology with ensuing disfiguration disability and social stigma. Despite the global success of multi-drug therapy (MDT), incidences of clinical leprosy have been observed in individuals with no apparent exposure to other cases, suggestive of possible non-human sources of the bacteria. In this study we show that common free-living amoebae (FLA) can phagocytose M. leprae, and allow the bacillus to remain viable for up to 8 months within amoebic cysts. Viable bacilli were extracted from separate encysted cocultures comprising three common Acanthamoeba spp.: A. lenticulata, A. castellanii, and A. polyphaga and two strains of Hartmannella vermiformis. Trophozoites of these common FLA take up M. leprae by phagocytosis. M. leprae from infected trophozoites induced to encyst for long-term storage of the bacilli emerged viable by assessment of membrane integrity. The majority (80%) of mice that were injected with bacilli extracted from 35 day cocultures of encysted/excysted A. castellanii and A. polyphaga showed lesion development that was similar to mice challenged with fresh M. leprae from passage mice albeit at a slower initial rate. Mice challenged with coculture-extracted bacilli showed evidence of acid-fast bacteria and positive PCR signal for M. leprae. These data support the conclusion that M. leprae can remain viable long-term in environmentally ubiquitous FLA and retain virulence as assessed in the nu/nu mouse model. Additionally, this work supports the idea that M. leprae might be sustained in the environment between hosts in FLA and such residence in FLA may provide a macrophage-like niche contributing to the higher-than-expected rate of leprosy transmission despite a significant decrease in human reservoirs due to MDT.

Concepts: Amoeboid, Social stigma, Bacteria, Mycobacterium, Mycobacterium leprae, Leprosy


Stenotrophomonas maltophilia is found ubiquitously in the environment and is an important emerging nosocomial pathogen. S. maltophilia has been recently described as an Amoebae-Resistant Bacteria (ARB) that exists as part of the microbiome of various free-living amoebae (FLA) from waters. Co-culture approaches with Vermamoeba vermiformis demonstrated the ability of this bacterium to resist amoebal digestion. In the present study, we assessed the survival and growth of six environmental and one clinical S. maltophilia strains within two amoebal species: Acanthamoeba castellanii and Willaertia magna. We also evaluated bacterial virulence properties using the social amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum. A co-culture approach was carried out over 96 hours and the abundance of S. maltophilia cells was measured using quantitative PCR and culture approach. The presence of bacteria inside the amoeba was confirmed using confocal microscopy. Our results showed that some S. maltophilia strains were able to multiply within both amoebae and exhibited multiplication rates up to 17.5 and 1166 for A. castellanii and W. magna, respectively. In contrast, some strains were unable to multiply in either amoeba. Out of the six environmental S. maltophilia strains tested, one was found to be virulent. Surprisingly, this strain previously isolated from a soil amoeba, Micriamoeba, was unable to infect both amoebal species tested. We further performed an assay with a mutant strain of S. maltophilia BurA1 lacking the efflux pump ebyCAB gene and found the mutant to be more virulent and more efficient for intra-amoebal multiplication. Overall, the results obtained strongly indicated that free-living amoebae could be an important ecological niche for S. maltophilia.

Concepts: Pseudomonas, Archaea, Gene, Amoeboid, Microbiology, Stenotrophomonas maltophilia, Antibiotic resistance, Bacteria


Chlorine and thermal treatments are the most commonly used procedures to control and prevent Legionella proliferation in drinking water systems of large buildings. However, cases of legionellosis still occur in facilities with treated water. The purpose of this work was to model the effect of temperature and free chlorine applied in similar exposure conditions as in drinking water systems on five Legionella spp. strains and two amoebal strains of the genera Acanthamoeba. Inactivation models obtained were used to determine the effectiveness of the treatments applied which resulted more effective against Legionella than Acanthamoeba, especially those in cystic stages. Furthermore, to determine the influence of the relationship between L. pneumophila and Acanthamoeba spp. on the treatment effectiveness, inactivation models of the bacteria-associated amoeba were also constructed and compared to the models obtained for the free living bacteria state. The Legionella-amoeba association did not change the inactivation models, but it reduced the effectiveness of the treatments applied. Remarkably, at the lowest free chlorine concentration, 0.5 mg L-1, as well as at the lowest temperatures, 50°C and 55°C, the influence of the Legionella-amoeba associate state was the strongest in reducing the effectiveness of the treatments compared to the free Legionella state. Therefore, the association established between L. pneumophila and amoebae in the water systems indicate an increased health risk in proximal areas of the system (close to the tap) where lower free chlorine concentrations and lower temperatures are commonly observed.

Concepts: Amoeboid, Legionellosis, Water, Effectiveness, Heat, Chlorine


Monophyly of protozoan phylum Amoebozoa, and subdivision into subphyla Conosa and Lobosa each with different cytoskeletons, are well established. However early diversification of non-ciliate lobose amoebae (Lobosa) is poorly understood. To clarify it we used recently available transcriptomes to construct a 187-gene amoebozoan tree for 30 species, the most comprehensive yet. This robustly places new genus Atrichosa (formerly lumped with Trichosphaerium) within lobosan class Tubulinea, not Discosea as previously supposed. We identified an earliest diverging lobosan clade comprising marine amoebae armoured by porose scaliform cell-envelopes, here made a novel class Cutosea with two pseudopodially distinct new families. Cutosea comprise Sapocribrum, ATCC PRA-29 misidentified as ‘Pessonella’, plus from other evidence Squamamoeba. We confirm that Acanthamoeba and ATCC 50982 misidentified as Stereomyxa ramosa are closely related. Discosea have a strongly supported major subclade comprising Thecamoebida plus Glycostylida (suborders Dactylopodina, Stygamoebina; Vannellina) phylogenetically distinct from Centramoebida. Himatismenida (now including new suborder Pellitina) are either sister to Centramoebida or deeper branching. Discosea usually appear holophyletic (rarely paraphyletic). Paramoeba transcriptomes include prokinetoplastid Perkinsela-like endosymbiont sequences. Cunea, misidentified as Mayorella, is closer to Paramoeba than Vexillifera within holophyletic Dactylopodina. Taxon-rich site-heterogeneous rDNA trees confirm cutosan distinctiveness, allow improved conosan taxonomy, and reveal previous dictyostelid tree misrooting.

Concepts: Taxonomic rank, Class, Kingdom, Phylogenetics, Amoeboid, Cladistics, Species, Amoebozoa


Soils host the most complex communities on Earth, including the most diverse and abundant eukaryotes, i.e. heterotrophic protists. Protists are generally considered being bacterivores, but evidence for negative interactions with nematodes both from laboratory- and field-studies exist. However, direct impacts of protists on nematodes remain unknown. We isolated the soil-borne testate amoeba Cryptodifflugia operculata and found a highly specialized and effective pack-hunting strategy to prey on bacterivorous nematodes. Enhanced reproduction in presence of prey nematodes suggests a beneficial predatory life-history of these omnivorous soil amoebae. C. operculata appears to selectively impact the nematode community composition as reductions of nematode numbers were species-specific. Furthermore, we investigated 12 soil metatranscriptomes from five distinct locations throughout Europe for 18S ribosomal RNA transcripts of C. operculata. The presence of C. operculata transcripts in all samples, representing up to 4% of the active protist community, indicates a potential ecological importance of nematophagy performed by C. operculata in soil food webs. The unique pack-hunting strategy on nematodes that was previously unknown from protists, together with molecular evidence that these pack-hunters are likely to be abundant and widespread in soils, imply a considerable importance of the hitherto neglected trophic link “nematophagous protists” in soil food webs.

Concepts: Ecology, Ribosome, Dog, Amoeboid, Archaea, Bacteria, Protist, Ribosomal RNA


Vibrio cholerae is a human pathogen and the causative agent of cholera. The persistence of this bacterium in aquatic environments is a key epidemiological concern, as cholera is transmitted through contaminated water. Predatory protists, such as amoebae, are major regulators of bacterial populations in such environments. Therefore, we investigated the interaction between V. cholerae and the amoeba Acanthamoeba castellanii at the single-cell level. We observed that V. cholerae can resist intracellular killing. The non-digested bacteria were either released or, alternatively, established a replication niche within the contractile vacuole of A. castellanii. V. cholerae was maintained within this compartment even upon encystment. The pathogen ultimately returned to its aquatic habitat through lysis of A. castellanii, a process that was dependent on the production of extracellular polysaccharide by the pathogen. This study reinforces the concept that V. cholerae is a facultative intracellular bacterium and describes a new host-pathogen interaction.The ISME Journal advance online publication, 22 September 2015; doi:10.1038/ismej.2015.165.

Concepts: Cell membrane, Protist, Amoeboid, Vibrio, Cholera, Vibrio cholerae, Microbiology, Bacteria