Showing posts with label division. Show all posts
Showing posts with label division. Show all posts

Friday, February 22, 2013

Bubbly Blasto!

Yesterday, I was checking up on a fresh Blastocystis culture. I loaded 20 ยตL of the culture "sediment" on to a glass slide, placed the cover slip on top and examined it by light microscopy. While examining the slide, I observed a multitude of dividing cells, indicating vigorous growth and a thriving strain, and once again I was struck by the appearance of dividing Blastocystis. This is basically what they may look like:

Like soap bubbles really, only a lot smaller obviously (mikrons), and somewhat opaque! You'll see them in different sizes and the way they divide looks just like this. Apparently some sort of random budding or multiple fission. You'll see little more than this bubbly structure, which means that there are very few morphological hallmarks to describe. A few nuclei may be discernible along the cytoplasmatic rim, but that's about it when you use light microscopy. Ultrastructural and biochemical analysis is required if you hope to be able to describe some of the processes involved in reproduction.

We often say that Blastocystis organisms representing different subtypes are morphologically indistinguishable; what this actually means is that we do not have the tools to differentiate them morphologically. There may actually be great variation between strains in terms of for instance how they grow in vivo and in vitro and maybe also how they reproduce. Vacuolar forms are the most common form seen in xenic cultures, but other morphotypes are sometimes observed, for instance the granular stage, which, in my experience, is typically seen in cultures that are not “well looked after”, i.e. where medium is not being replaced about twice a week. Dunn and colleagues. (1989) observed that the granular stage could arise from vacuolar stages in cultures where the concentration of horse serum was increased.

I have previously stated that there is no evidence for phagocytosis in Blastocystis. Actually, Dunn et al. (1989) captured what they thought to be bacterial engulfment by ultra-structural analysis, and they also observed bacteria-engulfing pseudopodia in amoeboid stages, in which degraded bacteria were observed. I don't think that I've ever come across this amoeboid stage, but it has been described by quite a few researchers.

Anyway, let's hope for another kind of bubbles this Friday night!

Suggested reading:

Dunn LA, Boreham PF, & Stenzel DJ (1989). Ultrastructural variation of Blastocystis hominis stocks in culture. International Journal for Parasitology, 19 (1), 43-56 PMID: 2707962