The developmental cell biology of Trypanosoma brucei

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Trypanosoma brucei provides an excellent system for studies of many aspects of cell biology, including cell structure and morphology, organelle positioning, cell division and protein trafficking. However, the trypanosome has a complex life cycle in which it must adapt either to the mammalian bloodstream or to different compartments within the tsetse fly. These differentiation events require stage-specific changes to basic cell biological processes and reflect responses to environmental stimuli and programmed differentiation events that must occur within a single cell. The organization of cell structure is fundamental to the trypanosome throughout its life cycle. Modulations of the overall cell morphology and positioning of the specialized mitochondrial genome, flagellum and associated basal body provide the classical descriptions of the different life cycle stages of the parasite. The dependency relationships that govern these morphological changes are now beginning to be understood and their molecular basis identified. The overall picture emerging is of a highly organized cell in which the rules established for cell division and morphogenesis in organisms such as yeast and mammalian cells do not necessarily apply. Therefore, understanding the developmental cell biology of the African trypanosome is providing insight into both fundamentally conserved and fundamentally different aspects of the organization of the eukaryotic cell.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)283-90
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Cell Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2005


  • Morphology
  • Cell division
  • Differentiation
  • Life cycle


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