Death of a trypanosome: a selfish altruism

Trends Parasitol. 2006 Nov;22(11):536-42. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2006 Aug 30.


African trypanosomes and some related parasitic protozoa are affected by a form of programmed cell death (PCD) that shows typical hallmarks of apoptosis. Although it has been speculated that PCD has a function in life-cycle progression and the struggle for survival of these parasites, no satisfactory model has yet been proposed for the molecular mechanism(s) of PCD in protozoa, raising questions about its physiological relevance in these organisms. As we discuss here, the most important point that needs to be addressed is whether a single-celled organism can undertake a process that is considered altruistic.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis*
  • Host-Parasite Interactions*
  • Trypanosoma / parasitology
  • Trypanosoma / physiology*