The human enteric protozoan, Giardia lamblia, has surface membrane lectin activity which mediates parasite adherence to erythrocytes. To determine whether an intestinal binding site exists for this lectin we have studied the interaction in vitro between axenically cultured Giardia trophozoites and isolated rat intestinal epithelial cells. Scanning electron microscopy showed that Giardia attached to the apical microvillus membrane and basolateral membrane of rat enterocytes. Any location on the parasite surface could mediate attachment without predeliction for the ventral disc. Trophozoites attached more avidly to jejunal compared with colonic epithelial cells. Attachment was inhibited at 4 degrees C, by sugars and glycoproteins containing D-mannosyl residues and by subagglutinating concentrations of anti-Giardia rabbit serum and two monoclonal antibodies, all with reactivity to parasite surface membrane determinants. Trypsinisation of trophozoites also reduced attachment but the ability to attach was rapidly restored after returning trophozoites to TYI-S culture medium for 4 h at 37 degrees C. Attachment was unaltered by the presence of the microfilament inhibitor cytochalasin B and in the absence of Ca++ and Mg++ ions. These findings support previous work that Giardia possesses a surface membrane mannose binding lectin and indicate that appropriate binding sites are present on rat intestinal epithelial cells. This lectin may play a part in mediating adherence of Giardia to mammalian intestine and could be a target for host immune defence.
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