Surface receptors and transporters of Trypanosoma brucei

Annu Rev Microbiol. 1998;52:745-78. doi: 10.1146/annurev.micro.52.1.745.


African trypanosomes combine antigenic variation of their surface coat with the ability to take up nutrients from their mammalian hosts. Uptake of small molecules such as glucose or nucleosides is mediated by translocators hidden from host antibodies by the surface coat. The multiple glucose transporters and transporters for nucleobases and nucleosides have been characterized. Receptors for host macromolecules such as transferrin and lipoproteins are visible to antibodies but hidden from the cellular arm of the host immune system in an invagination of the trypanosome surface, the flagellar pocket. The trypanosomal transferrin receptor is a heterodimer that resembles the major component of the surface coat of Trypanosoma brucei. The ability to make several versions of this receptor allows T. brucei to bind transferrins from a range of mammals with high affinity. The proteins required for uptake of nutrients by trypanosomes provide a target for chemotherapy that remains to be fully exploited.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Protozoan / chemistry
  • Antigens, Protozoan / genetics
  • Antigens, Protozoan / physiology
  • Flagella / physiology
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • N-Glycosyl Hydrolases / metabolism
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / physiology*
  • Receptors, Lipoprotein / physiology
  • Receptors, Transferrin / physiology
  • Trypanosoma brucei brucei / immunology
  • Trypanosoma brucei brucei / metabolism
  • Trypanosoma brucei brucei / physiology*
  • Variant Surface Glycoproteins, Trypanosoma / chemistry
  • Variant Surface Glycoproteins, Trypanosoma / genetics
  • Variant Surface Glycoproteins, Trypanosoma / physiology


  • Antigens, Protozoan
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • Receptors, Lipoprotein
  • Receptors, Transferrin
  • Variant Surface Glycoproteins, Trypanosoma
  • N-Glycosyl Hydrolases
  • Glucose