Respiration, oxidative phosphorylation, and the corresponding changes in membrane potential (ΔΨ) of Trypanosoma cruzi epimastigotes grown either in liver infusion-tryptose (LIT) or brain heart infusion (BHI) culture medium were assayed in situ using digitonin to render their plasma membrane permeable to succinate, ADP, safranine O, and other small molecules. When the cells were permeabilized with 64 μM digitonin, a concentration previously used with epimastigotes, the ability of the cells grown in LIT medium to sustain oxidative phosphorylation was demonstrated by the detection of an oligomycin-sensitive decrease in mitochondrial membrane potential induced by ADP. In contrast, the cells grown in BHI medium were not able to sustain a stable membrane potential and did not respond to ADP addition. Analyses of oxygen consumption by these permeabilized cells indicated that the rate of basal respiration, which was similar in both cell types, was significantly decreased by 64 μM digitonin. Addition of ADP to the permeabilized cells grown in LIT medium promoted an oligomycin-sensitive transition from resting to phosphorylating respiration in contrast to the cells grown in BHI medium, whose respiration decreased steadily and did not respond either to ADP or CCCP. Titration of the cells grown in BHI medium with different digitonin concentrations indicated that their mitochondria have higher sensitivity to digitonin than those grown in LIT medium. Analysis of the sterol composition of epimastigotes grown in the two different media showed a higher percentage of cholesterol in total and mitochondrial extracts of epimastigotes grown in BHI medium as compared to those grown in LIT medium, suggesting the involvement of this sterol in their increased sensitivity to digitonin-permeabilization.
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