Cytopathic changes and pro-inflammatory cytokines induced by Naegleria fowleri trophozoites in rat microglial cells and protective effects of an anti-Nfa1 antibody


: Ho-Joon Shin, Department of Microbiology, Ajou University School of Medicine, Suwon 443–721, Korea. Tel.: +82-31-219-5076; Fax: +82-31-219-5079 (e-mail:


Naegleria fowleri, a free-living amoeba, causes fatal primary amoebic meningoencephalitis in experimental animals and humans. The nfa1 gene (360 bp) was previously cloned from a cDNA library of pathogenic N. fowleri by immunoscreening, and produced a 13·1-kDa recombinant protein that showed pseudopodia-specific localization by immunocytochemistry. On the basis of an idea that the pseudopodia-specific Nfa1 protein seems to be involved in the pathogenicity of N. fowleri, the cytopathic activity of N. fowleri trophozoites co-cultured with rat microglial cells was observed, and the effects of an anti-Nfa1 antibody in a co-culture system were elucidated. Using light, scanning and transmission electron microscopy, it was seen that N. fowleri trophozoites in contact with microglial cells produced vigorous pseudopodia and a food-cup structure. Microglial cells were destroyed by N. fowleri trophozoites as seen from necrotic cell death in a time-dependent manner. In a51Cr release assay, N. fowleri showed 17·8%, 24·9%, 54·6% and 98% cytotoxicity against microglial cells at 3, 6, 12 and 24 h post-incubation, respectively. However, when anti-Nfa1 antibody was added in a coculture system, N. fowleri cytotoxicity was reduced to 15·5%, 20·3%, 46·7% and 66·9%, respectively. Moreover, microglial cells co-cultured with N. fowleri trophozoites secreted the pro-inflammatory cytokines, TNF-α, IL-1β and IL-6. In the presence of anti-Nfa1 antibody, the secretion of TNF-α was slightly, but not significantly, decreased.