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The parasitic nematode Trichuris trichiura is a significant burden on public health in developing countries, and currently available drugs exhibit a poor cure rate. Worms live within a specialised tunnel of host intestinal epithelial cells and have anterior-ventral projections of the cuticle termed “cuticular inflations”, which are thought to be involved in host-parasite interactions. This work aimed to characterise structure and suggest a function of cuticular inflations in the most tractable and widely-used model of trichuriasis, Trichuris muris. Using scanning electron microscopy, we show for the first time that most cuticular inflations develop between the second and third larval moults. Correlative X-ray computed tomography (CT)-steered Serial Block Face Scanning Electron Microscopy (SBF-SEM) and transmission electron microscopy enabled ultrastructural imaging of cuticular inflations, and showed the presence of an additional, web-like layer of cuticle between the median and cortical layers of the inflation. Additionally, we characterised variation in inflation morphology, resolving debate as to the inflations’ true shape in situ. Cells underlying the inflations had many mitochondria, and we highlight their potential capacity for active transport as an area for future investigation. Overall, insights from the powerful imaging techniques used provide an excellent basis for future study of cuticular inflation function.
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