An alternative strategy for trypanosome survival in the mammalian bloodstream revealed through genome and transcriptome analysis of the ubiquitous bovine parasite Trypanosoma (Megatrypanum) theileri

Steven Kelly, Alasdair Ivens, G. Adam Mott, Ellis O'Neill, David Emms, Olivia Macleod, Paul Voorheis, Kevin Tyler, Matthew Clark, Jacqueline Matthews, Keith Matthews, Mark Carrington

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There are hundreds of Trypanosoma species that live in the blood and tissue spaces of their vertebrate hosts. The vast majority of these do not have the ornate system of antigenic variation that has evolved in the small number of African trypanosome species, but can still maintain long term infections in the face of the vertebrate adaptive immune system. Trypanosoma theileri is a typical example, it has a restricted host range of cattle and other Bovinae and is only occasionally reported to cause patent disease although no systematic survey of the effect of infection on agricultural productivity has been performed. Here, a detailed genome sequence and a transcriptome analysis of gene expression in bloodstream form T. theileri have been performed. Analysis of the genome sequence and expression showed that T. theileri has a typical kinetoplastid genome structure and allowed a prediction that it is capable of meiotic exchange, gene silencing via RNA interference and, potentially, density-dependent growth control. In particular, the transcriptome analysis has allowed a comparison of two distinct trypanosome cell surfaces, T. brucei and T. theileri, that have each evolved to enable the maintenance of a long-term extracellular infection in cattle. The T. theileri cell surface can be modelled to contain a mixture of proteins encoded by four novel large and divergent gene families and by members of a major surface protease gene family. This surface composition is distinct from the uniform variant surface glycoprotein coat on African trypanosomes providing an insight into a second mechanism used by trypanosome species that proliferate in an extracellular milieu in vertebrate hosts to avoid the adaptive immune response.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2093–2109
Number of pages17
JournalGenome Biology and Evolution
Issue number8
Early online date14 Aug 2017
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2017


  • Trypanosoma theileri
  • genome
  • transcriptome
  • cell surface components

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