The microsporidian polar tube: A highly specialised invasion organelle

Yanji Xu, Louis M. Weiss

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

103 Scopus citations


All of the members of the Microsporidia possess a unique, highly specialised structure, the polar tube. This article reviews the available data on the organisation, structure and function of this invasion organelle. It was over 100 years ago that Thelohan accurately described the microsporidian polar tube and the triggering of its discharge. In the spore, the polar tube is connected at the anterior end, and then coils around the sporoplasm. Upon appropriate environmental stimulation the polar tube rapidly discharges out of the spore pierces a cell membrane and serves as a conduit for sporoplasm passage into the new host cell. The mechanism of germination of spores, however, remains to be definitively determined. In addition, further studies on the characterisation of the early events in the rupture of the anterior attachment complex, eversion of the polar tube as well as the mechanism of host cell attachment and penetration are needed in order to clarify the function and assembly of this structure. The application of immunological and molecular techniques has resulted in the identification of three polar tube proteins referred to as PTP1, PTP2 and PTP3. The interactions of these identified proteins in the formation and function of the polar tube remain to be determined. Data suggest that PTP1 is an O-mannosylated glycoprotein, a post-translational modification that may be important for its function. With the availability of the Encephalitozoon cuniculi genome it is now possible to apply proteomic techniques to the characterisation of the components of the microsporidian spore and invasion organelle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)941-953
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal for Parasitology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Aug 2005


  • Brachiola
  • Encephalitozoon
  • Germination
  • Microsporidia
  • Nosema
  • Polar tube protein
  • Polaroplast

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Infectious Diseases


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