Research may lead to strategies to treat infections caused by trypanosomes
Published: 4 March 2020
Dr Jennifer Black, in collaboration with Prof Richard McCulloch and Institute colleagues, has identified the first protein kinase that acts in a key strategy used by the African trypanosome to survive in human and animal hosts
New research led by Dr Jennifer Black, working with Professor Richard McCulloch and colleagues from iii and the University of York, has identified the first protein kinase that acts in a key strategy used by the African trypanosome to survive in human and animal hosts.
African trypanosomes have evolved a system for changing the composition of their protective surface ‘coat’ to allow the parasites to avoid elimination by their host’s immune response.
This coat switching system is termed antigenic variation and similar strategies are found in a huge range of viruses, bacteria and parasites.
Dr Black’s work revealed that loss of a factor called ATR severely impairs trypanosome coat switching. Because ATR is an enzyme that recognises errors in the cell’s genome and co-ordinates their repair by altering the behaviour of other cellular factors, the research provides clues as to how genome lesions might lead to coat switching and how antigenic variation might be co-ordinated with trypanosome cell growth.
Dr Black said: "We are excited by these findings because identification of an important role for ATR in trypanosome coat switching provides an opening for us to uncover the wider cellular reactions that direct this critical survival mechanism.
"In addition, because ATR is a protein kinase for which inhibitors have been developed, such as for treating cancer, we have the opportunity to test if antigenic variation can be blocked, which may lead to new strategies to treat the human and animal infections caused by trypanosomes."
Read the paper in Cell Reports: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211124719317061?via%3Dihub
First published: 4 March 2020