Molecular mechanisms mediating immune evasion in African trypanosomes

Year of award: 2018


  • Prof Gloria Rudenko

    Imperial College London

Project summary

African trypanosomes are single-celled parasites which can infect the human bloodstream. They survive immune attack due to their protective variant surface glycoprotein (VSG) coat. VSG is the most abundant protein in bloodstream-form trypanosomes and is arguably one of the most important proteins. VSG coat synthesis could therefore represent an Achilles heel for tackling this pathogen. An individual trypanosome has thousands of genes encoding different coat types but only one VSG gene is transcribed at a time from a single expression site. 

Trypanosomes have multiple expression sites of different types. We want to find out how they are all controlled so that only one is on at a time. We have found that blocking synthesis of the protective VSG surface coat prevents trypanosomes from dividing.  

Understanding the connection between VSG coat production and cell division, as well as how coat synthesis is controlled, should allow us to tackle this evasive parasite.