Electron microscope methods have been used to study delivery of macrophage primary or secondary lysosomal contents to phagocytic vacuoles containing living or dead toxoplasmas. Secondary lysosomes were labeled by culturing the cells in colloidal thorium dioxide (thorotrast) or in ferritin. Acid phosphatase cytochemistry was employed for detection of primary as well as secondary lysosomal constituents. These various lysosomal labels were present in nearly all vacuoles containing toxoplasmas killed with glutaraldehyde, or in vacuoles containing those parasites undergoing degeneration 1 hr after the uptake of living toxoplasmas. In contrast, at times ranging from 1 to 20 hr after infection, no vacuoles containing morphologically normal, apparently viable toxoplasmas were thorotrast or ferritin positive, and only rarely did these vacuoles react for acid phosphatase. In many instances vacuoles containing viable toxoplasmas and no lysosomal markers were situated in the same cell nearby to vacuoles containing degenerating toxoplasmas and lysosomal constituents, thus indicating that the determinants of lysosomal fusion were operating locally in the immediate vicinity of the phagocytic vacuole, and not operating to influence general cell function. Thus, some toxoplasmas are able to prevent the delivery of lysosomal contents, and apparently the phagocytic vacuole provides for these parasites a sheltered microenvironment ideal for their growth.
Morphologic evidence indicated that living toxoplasmas altered the phagocytic vacuolar membrane in macrophages, fibroblasts, and HeLa cells. Within minutes after phagocytosis, the vacuole became surrounded by closely apposed strips of endoplasmic reticulum and mitochondria; somewhat later, microvillous protrusions of the membrane into the vacuole were seen. These morphologic features of phagocytic vacuoles containing living toxoplasmas may be of importance in relation to the absence of lysosomal fusion, or they may serve some function in protecting the host cell or in nourishing the parasite.