Mouse peritoneal macrophages (MPM) or human blood monocytes (HBM) co-cultured with intracellular (amastigote; AMA) forms of Trypanosoma cruzi in the presence of human lactoferrin (LF) took up greater numbers of organisms than in the absence of LF; the proportion of phagocytes taking up AMA was also significantly increased. Pretreatment of either MPM or AMA with LF also enhanced cell-parasite association. By immunofluorescence, HBM, MPM, and AMA were found to bind LF. By using 125I-labeled LF, each AMA was determined to have an average 1.1 X 10(6) surface receptors for LF. The enhancing effect of LF on cell-parasite association was inhibited when either rabbit anti-LF IgG or alpha-methyl mannoside (alpha-MM) was present during the incubation of MPM or AMA with LF, or when AMA pretreated with LF were then incubated with either of the LF blocking agents. Although these findings seemed to suggest that LF increased MPM-AMA association by bridging these cells, the LF effect was not inhibited when MPM pretreated with LF were subsequently incubated with either alpha-MM or anti-LF. Furthermore, LF stimulated phagocytosis, as denoted by a significant increase in latex particle uptake after LF treatment of MPM. The intracellular killing capacity of HBM or MPM was also stimulated by LF and was denoted by increased AMA destruction after LF treatments. The possibility that LF only appeared to increase the rate of AMA killing by simply promoting the engulfment of greater numbers of AMA that would then be destroyed intracellularly seemed unlikely because untreated MPM that had already taken up untreated AMA killed greater numbers of AMA when they were subsequently incubated with LF. The results of experiments with scavengers of oxygen reduction intermediates and of nitroblue tetrazolium reduction tests indicated that H2O2, O2- and 1O2 were involved in the killing of AMA by LF-treated MPM. These results suggest that LF, a glycoprotein secreted by neutrophils in greater than normal amounts during inflammation, may contribute to macrophage clearance of AMA released from infected host cells.

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