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The Journal of Cell Biology
The Rockefeller University Press
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  • Article


Electron microscope studies of the erythrocytic forms, including gametocytes and asexual schizonts, of the protozoa Plasmodium fallax, P. lophurae, and P. cathemerium, have revealed a "cytostome," a specialized organelle of the pellicular membrane which is active in the ingestion of host cell cytoplasm. In material fixed in glutaraldehyde and postfixed in OsO4, the cytostome appears in face view as a pore limited by two dense circular membranes and having an inside diameter of approximately 190 mµ. In cross-section, the cytostome is a cavity bounded on each side by two dense segments corresponding to the two dense circles observed in face view; its base consists of a single unit membrane. In the process of feeding, the cytostome cavity enlarges by expansion of its membrane, permitting a large quantity of red cell cytoplasm to come into contact with the cytostome wall. Subsequent digestion of erythrocyte cytoplasm occurs exclusively in food vacuoles which emanate from the cytostome invagination. As digestion progresses, the food vacuoles initially stain more densely and there is a marked build-up of hemozoin granules. In the final stage of digestion, a single membrane surrounds a cluster of residual pigment particles and very little of the original host cell cytoplasm remains. The cytostome in exoerythrocytic stages of P. fallax has been observed only in merozoites and does not seem to play the same role in the feeding mechanism.

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