The Trypanosoma brucei flagellum: moving parasites in new directions

Annu Rev Microbiol. 2009;63:335-62. doi: 10.1146/annurev.micro.091208.073353.

Abstract

African trypanosomes are devastating human and animal pathogens. Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense and T. b. gambiense subspecies cause the fatal human disease known as African sleeping sickness. It is estimated that several hundred thousand new infections occur annually and the disease is fatal if untreated. T. brucei is transmitted by the tsetse fly and alternates between bloodstream-form and insect-form life cycle stages that are adapted to survive in the mammalian host and the insect vector, respectively. The importance of the flagellum for parasite motility and attachment to the tsetse fly salivary gland epithelium has been appreciated for many years. Recent studies have revealed both conserved and novel features of T. brucei flagellum structure and composition, as well as surprising new functions that are outlined here. These discoveries are important from the standpoint of understanding trypanosome biology and identifying novel drug targets, as well as for advancing our understanding of fundamental aspects of eukaryotic flagellum structure and function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Flagella / chemistry
  • Flagella / physiology*
  • Flagella / ultrastructure
  • Humans
  • Locomotion*
  • Trypanosoma brucei gambiense / physiology*
  • Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense / physiology*
  • Tsetse Flies