cAMP signalling in Trypanosoma brucei

Int J Parasitol. 2001 May 1;31(5-6):491-8. doi: 10.1016/s0020-7519(01)00164-3.


Cyclic AMP was the first second messenger to be identified. After five decades of research, much is currently known about its biological functions and clinical implications. Several components of the cAMP signalling pathways, such as the G-protein coupled receptors and the phosphodiesterases, have become sensitive and specific drug targets for a host of clinical applications. Surprisingly, very little effort has been invested so far into the study of cAMP signalling in parasites, and its significance in host/parasite interaction. Our laboratory has embarked on a study of cAMP signalling in Trypanosoma brucei. A newly identified adenylyl cyclase, GRESAG4.4B, a member of a small family of closely related genes, is being used as a model molecule for investigating the mechanisms which control cyclase activity in the T. brucei cell. On the other hand, a number of genes for different families of cAMP-specific phosphodiesterases have been identified and characterised. One enzyme, TbPDE1, is coded for by a single-copy gene. Knock-outs of this gene display an almost normal phenotype in culture, indicating that TbPDE1 is not an essential enzyme under culture conditions. A second phosphodiesterase which is being studied in detail, TbPDE2A, is clearly different from TbPDE1, and it is coded for by a member of a small gene family containing about six similar, but non-identical genes. TbPDE2A, as TbPDE1, is specific for cAMP. In its N-terminal, it contains a GAF domain which may represent an allosteric cGMP-binding site. The other members of the TbPDE2 family all exhibit strongly conserved catalytic domains, but vary widely in their N-terminal regulatory domains. With regard to downstream signalling by the cAMP generated through the interplay of adenylyl cyclases and phosphodiesterases, we have recently identified a single-copy gene (TbRSU1) which codes for a putative regulatory subunit of the cAMP-regulated protein kinase A. This protein exhibits considerable similarity with its mammalian counterparts. Immunoprecipitation co-precipitates a protein kinase activity with the characteristics of protein kinase A.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenylyl Cyclases / physiology
  • Animals
  • Cyclic AMP / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Phosphoric Diester Hydrolases / physiology
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Trypanosoma brucei brucei / drug effects
  • Trypanosoma brucei brucei / enzymology
  • Trypanosoma brucei brucei / physiology*
  • Trypanosomiasis, African / drug therapy


  • Cyclic AMP
  • Phosphoric Diester Hydrolases
  • Adenylyl Cyclases