Proleptomonas faecicola

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The only putative free-living trypanosomatid is Proleptomonas faecicola described first by Woodcock in 1916 as a coprophilic flagellate with striking Leptomonas-like flagellar movement but lacking a kinetoplast. P. faecicola was later identified by Sandon in 1927 as a widespread non-phagotrophic inhabitant of soils. No division stages were seen by either observer. An organism conforming to Woodcock's light microscope description has been isolated from tapwater and cultivated axenically in various serum-containing media. Division has been shown to occur in an aflagellate stage enclosed in a thin cyst wall. Electron microscopy of the flagellate stage reveals that, in addition to the long locomotory flagellum, a second non-motile flagellum is present attached to the body along its entire length. The flagellate's ultrastructure lacks all the major features of the Trypanosomatidae. The several mitochondria of Proleptomonas have tubular cristae and lie between intracytoplasmic microtubules originating as a loose cone associated with the flagellar basal bodies. This cytoskeleton is much reduced in the division cyst. A comparable Proleptomonas-like flagellate with similar division cysts has been observed in soil samples from farmland. Phylogenetic analysis based on SSU rRNA gene sequences suggests that the cultured organism identified here as Proleptomonas is unrelated to the Kinetoplastida and has affinities with the Phylum Cercozoa Cavalier-Smith, even though in morphology, life cycle and mode of feeding it bears little resemblance to any member of that diverse grouping.