The Cytological Events and Molecular Control of Life Cycle Development of Trypanosoma brucei in the Mammalian Bloodstream

Eleanor Silvester, Kirsty McWilliam, Keith Matthews

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

African trypanosomes cause devastating disease in sub-Saharan Africa in humans and livestock. The parasite lives extracellularly within the bloodstream of mammalian hosts and is transmitted by blood-feeding tsetse flies. In the blood, trypanosomes exhibit two developmental forms: the slender form and the stumpy form. The slender form proliferates in the bloodstream, establishes the parasite numbers and avoids host immunity through antigenic variation. The stumpy form, in contrast, is non-proliferative and is adapted for transmission. Here, we overview the features of slender and stumpy form parasites in terms of their cytological and molecular characteristics and discuss how these contribute to their distinct biological functions. Thereafter, we describe the technical developments that have enabled recent discoveries that uncover how the slender to stumpy transition is enacted in molecular terms. Finally, we highlight new understanding of how control of the balance between slender and stumpy form parasites interfaces with other components of the infection dynamic of trypanosomes in their mammalian hosts. This interplay between the host environment and the parasite’s developmental biology may expose new vulnerabilities to therapeutic attack or reveal where drug control may be thwarted by the biological complexity of the parasite’s lifestyle.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPathogens
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2017

Keywords

  • Trypanosoma brucei
  • transmission
  • stumpy form
  • differentiation
  • life-cycle
  • quorum sensing

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