Cytoskeletal features of the syncytial epidermis of the tapeworm Hymenolepis diminuta.

J. M. Holy, J. A. Oaks

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10 Scopus citations


A hallmark feature of parasitic platyhelminths is a cytoarchitecturally unusual syncytial epidermis composed of a peripheral layer of continuous cytoplasm (the ectocytoplasm) connected to underlying nucleated cell bodies by small cytoplasmic bridges. The helminth epidermis, or tegument, plays important roles in protection and nutrient acquisition; cestodes, in fact, completely lack a gastrointestinal tract and absorb all nutritive material through the tegument. Perhaps not surprisingly, the cestode tegument bears certain resemblances to the mucosal epithelium of the vertebrate small intestine, including the possession of a microvillous brush border upon the surface of the ectocytoplasm. In contrast to the intestinal epithelial cell, however, very little is known concerning the nature and organization of the cytoskeleton within the helminth epidermis. Therefore, a number of different microscopical preparative techniques were used to examine the tegument of the tapeworm Hymenolepis diminuta for the presence and distribution of microfilaments, intermediate filaments, and microtubules. It was found that both actin-containing microfilaments and intermediate-sized filaments are present but are restricted to specific locations along the plasmalemmae of the ectocytoplasm. In contrast, microtubules are found throughout the tegument, and are concentrated in the supranuclear regions of the perikarya and in the cytoplasmic bridges interconnecting the perikarya and ectocytoplasm. Unlike brush borders of most other epithelia, the cestode epidermal brush border lacks a filamentous terminal web and is instead associated with microtubules. A network of fine filaments, 5-8 nm in diameter but distinct from actin-containing microfilaments, runs throughout the ectocytoplasm and appears to interlink tegumental vesicles. These fine filaments may represent the primary "skeletal" system responsible for maintaining the structure of the tegumental cytoplasm.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)41-56
Number of pages16
JournalCell Motility and the Cytoskeleton
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1989


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