An update on antigenic variation in African trypanosomes

Trends Parasitol. 2001 Jul;17(7):338-43. doi: 10.1016/s1471-4922(01)01922-5.


African trypanosomes can spend a long time in the blood of their mammalian host, where they are exposed to the immune system and are thought to take advantage of it to modulate their own numbers. Their major immunogenic protein is the variant surface glycoprotein (VSG), the gene for which must be in one of the 20--40 specialized telomeric expression sites in order to be transcribed. Trypanosomes escape antibody-mediated destruction through periodic changes of the expressed VSG gene from a repertoire of approximately 1000. How do trypanosomes exclusively express only one VSG and how do they switch between them?

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigenic Variation / genetics*
  • Gene Conversion
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Genes, Protozoan
  • Models, Genetic
  • Recombination, Genetic
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Trypanosoma / genetics*
  • Trypanosoma / immunology*
  • Variant Surface Glycoproteins, Trypanosoma / genetics*


  • Variant Surface Glycoproteins, Trypanosoma