Trypanosomatid parasites are the causative agents of severe human diseases such as sleeping sickness, Chagas disease and leishmaniases. These microorganisms are transmitted via different insect vectors and hence are confronted to changing environments during their infectious cycle in which they activate specific and complex patterns of differentiation. Several studies in Trypanosoma brucei and in different subspecies of Leishmania have shed light on the role of mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinases in these processes. Surprisingly, several MAP kinases turned out to be involved in the control of flagellum length in the promastigote stage of Leishmania. Recently, a sensory function has been recognized for cilia and flagella in unicellular and multicellular eukaryotes. This review aims to stimulate discussions on the possibility that the Trypanosomatid flagellum could act as a sensory organ through the MAP kinase pathway, with the objective to encourage investigation of this new hypothesis through a series of proposed experimental approaches.
© 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.