Female and male worms of Nippostrongylus brasiliensis exhibited sexual dimorphism based on the number of coelomocytes present. A surprising multiplicity of diverse morphological types of coelomocytes developed in both female and male worms during the parasitic cycle. Cytoplasmic processes began to appear on the surface membrane of coelomocytes in the late third-stage larvae (L3s) in the lungs, and they increased greatly in type, size, and morphology during the fourth and fifth stages. These structures were characterized primarily as complex filopodia, pseudopodia, and cytoplasmic pearls, which resulted in the formation of highly pleomorphic cells. Pearls, starting as small protuberances, progressively increased in size and number with larval growth and development. In the adult worms, a novel process of autocannibalism was initiated in many of the very large coelomocytes. The pearls grew enormously in size at the expense of the cytoplasm, forming a peripheral garland in 1 plane surrounding a residual, small, flat, cytoplasmic core containing the nucleus. The underlying “strategy” was to increase the surface-to-volume ratio of these huge cells to overcome the restriction imposed by eutely; the coelomocytes do not undergo cell division. This morphological innovation makes possible a more efficient uptake of nutrients and exocytosis of waste matter. Vesicles (presumably lysosomes) in the coelomocytes of the infective L3 store an extraordinarily high concentration of vitamin B12 (cobalamin, Cbl). At present, the only physiological function that can be assigned to coelomocytes of N. brasiliensis is the uptake, concentration, and storage of Cbl in the free-living stages, with the subsequent release of the molecule from the vesicles in the early phase of parasitism. Thus, stored Cbl in the infective L3 is made available for biochemical processes during the critical period of larval growth and differentiation initiated in the lung. A model of a hypothetical coelomocyte is presented relative to the processing and use of Cbl. Based on many criteria, it is possible that functional differences exist between different morphological types of coelomocytes in the parasitic stages of N. brasiliensis and that future studies will have to address this matter.
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