The trypanolytic factor of human serum

Nat Rev Microbiol. 2006 Jun;4(6):477-86. doi: 10.1038/nrmicro1428.


African trypanosomes (the prototype of which is Trypanosoma brucei brucei) are protozoan parasites that infect a wide range of mammals. Human blood, unlike the blood of other mammals, has efficient trypanolytic activity, and this needs to be counteracted by these parasites. Resistance to this activity has arisen in two subspecies of Trypanosoma brucei - Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense and Trypanosoma brucei gambiense - allowing these parasites to infect humans, and this results in sleeping sickness in East Africa and West Africa, respectively. Study of the mechanism by which T. b. rhodesiense escapes lysis by human serum led to the identification of an ionic-pore-forming apolipoprotein - known as apolipoprotein L1 - that is associated with high-density-lipoprotein particles in human blood. In this Opinion article, we argue that apolipoprotein L1 is the factor that is responsible for the trypanolytic activity of human serum.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / physiology
  • Apolipoprotein L1
  • Apolipoproteins / physiology*
  • Blood Proteins / physiology
  • Haptoglobins / physiology
  • Humans
  • Immune Sera / immunology*
  • Lipoproteins, HDL / physiology*
  • Trypanosoma brucei gambiense / immunology
  • Trypanosoma brucei gambiense / physiology*
  • Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense / immunology
  • Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense / physiology*
  • Trypanosomiasis, African / immunology*
  • Trypanosomiasis, African / parasitology


  • APOL1 protein, human
  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • Apolipoprotein L1
  • Apolipoproteins
  • Blood Proteins
  • HPR protein, human
  • Haptoglobins
  • Immune Sera
  • Lipoproteins, HDL