Protein glycosylation in trypanosomes: defining and exploiting a biological system


  • Prof Michael Ferguson

    University of Dundee

Project summary

Professor Ferguson works on glycoprotein structure and biosynthesis in parasites, particularly Trypanosoma brucei, the causative agent of human African sleeping sickness. As part of their strategy to survive inside parasitised hosts, the trypanosomes depend on a coat of surface glycoproteins (proteins with sugar chains attached). Glycoproteins perform many vital functions for the parasites with respect to their infectivity and survival in hosts. These include nutrient uptake, endosome/lysosome function, flagellar adhesion and, above all, hiding themselves from the hosts' immune systems. Professor Ferguson plans to provide a complete understanding of the range of glycoprotein structures made by Trypanosoma brucei and to use the findings as a road map to define the biosynthetic machinery that allows the parasite to assemble them. This knowledge will help identify potential drug targets for translation into drug discovery for sleeping sickness and related parasitic infections.