The direct route: a simplified pathway for protein import into the mitochondrion of trypanosomes

Trends Cell Biol. 2008 Jan;18(1):12-8. doi: 10.1016/j.tcb.2007.09.009.


Trypanosoma brucei is a unicellular eukaryote that causes the deadly human African trypanosomiasis ('sleeping sickness') in humans. The parasite has a complicated lifestyle, it developmentally changes aspects of its mitochondrial function as it alternates from forms in the tsetse fly to forms adapted for life in the human bloodstream. The single mitochondrion found in each trypanosome has to be duplicated precisely in each round of the cell cycle in order for parasites to replicate, and this depends on the import of proteins from the cytosol. Here we review what is known about the mitochondrial protein import pathway in T. brucei, how it compares with the process in humans, and how the distinguishing features seen in T. brucei and humans promise new understanding of the mitochondrial protein import process in all eukaryotes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Transport, Active*
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria / metabolism*
  • Mitochondria / ultrastructure
  • Mitochondrial Membrane Transport Proteins / genetics
  • Mitochondrial Membrane Transport Proteins / metabolism*
  • Protozoan Proteins / metabolism*
  • Trypanosoma brucei brucei / growth & development
  • Trypanosoma brucei brucei / metabolism*
  • Trypanosoma brucei brucei / ultrastructure


  • Mitochondrial Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Protozoan Proteins