Quantitation of Absolute Pneumocystis Carinii Nuclear DNA Content. Trophic and Cystic Forms Isolated From Infected Rat Lungs Are Haploid Organisms

Document Type


Publication Date



The Pneumocystis carinii carinii DNA content in nuclei of trophic forms and cysts (spore cases) containing 2, 4, or 8 intracystic bodies, were compared using quantitative fluorescence image analysis. The nuclear DNA content was found to be lower than the theoretical limits of Feulgen cytophotometry. Several fluorescent DNA dyes provide brighter staining, but these techniques suffer from nonspecific binding to other cellular components, such as RNA. It was demonstrated that the thick glycocalyx surfaces of trophic forms and the cyst walls of P. carinii organisms, as well as the cell wall of S. cerevisiae, bound all fluorescent dyes tested to varying degrees. Hence in this study, measurements were performed on cells in which the outer surfaces of organisms were first removed with lyticase. Two stains that appeared most specific for DNA, DB181 and 4',6-diamidino-2-phenylindole (DAPI), were used for quantitations; lower deviations of fluorescence intensities were observed with DB181. Haploid wild type Saccharomyces cerevisiae and cdc-28 temperature-sensitive mutant cells, accumulated at the restrictive temperature (37°C), were used as quantitative internal standards for estimating the absolute nuclear DNA content of P. carinii. Haploid wild type and mutant nuclei stained with DAPI had the same relative fluorescence intensities. The P. carinii nuclear DNA content of trophic forms and individual intracystic bodies (spores), regardless of life cycle stage, were not different. The mean values obtained were 6.9 and 6.7 fg DNA/nucleus with DB181 and DAPI, respectively (approximately 9.26 and 8.99 Mbp nucleotides, respectively). Since these would include 2C (G-2 phase) and S-phase nuclei, a 1C population of nuclei was selected by histogram distributions of DB181-stained nuclei. Almost all nuclei analyzed in all life cycle stages fell within this population. The 1C mean of 6.55 fg DNA/nucleus (median, 6.62 fg DNA/nucleus) was estimated as representing 8.79 Mbp nucleotides, assuming only A-T binding of the dye and taking into account the G+C content of S. cerevisiae and P. carinii. A 4C (G-2-phase diploid nuclei) population was not detected in histograms of DB181- or DAPI-stained nuclei. The P. carinii nuclear DNA content values obtained in this study were similar to those independently obtained by calculating the total DNA in the organism's chromosomes resolved by electrophoretic techniques. Together, the data on total chromosome numbers and the estimated DNA content of those chromosomes, with our quantitation of nuclear DNA content of different life-cycle stages demonstrate that P. carinii carinii isolated from infected rat lungs are haploid organisms.