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Microbiol Rev. 1995 Sep;59(3):325-44.

Protein trafficking in kinetoplastid protozoa.

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  • 1Zentrum für Molekulare Biologie, Heidelberg, Germany.


The kinetoplastid protozoa infect hosts ranging from invertebrates to plants and mammals, causing diseases of medical and economic importance. They are the earliest-branching organisms in eucaryotic evolution to have either mitochondria or peroxisome-like microbodies. Investigation of their protein trafficking enables us to identify characteristics that have been conserved throughout eucaryotic evolution and also reveals how far variations, or alternative mechanisms, are possible. Protein trafficking in kinetoplastids is in many respects similar to that in higher eucaryotes, including mammals and yeasts. Differences in signal sequence specificities exist, however, for all subcellular locations so far examined in detail--microbodies, mitochondria, and endoplasmic reticulum--with signals being more degenerate, or shorter, than those of their higher eucaryotic counterparts. Some components of the normal array of trafficking mechanisms may be missing in most (if not all) kinetoplastids: examples are clathrin-coated vesicles, recycling receptors, and mannose 6-phosphate-mediated lysosomal targeting. Other aspects and structures are unique to the kinetoplastids or are as yet unexplained. Some of these peculiarities may eventually prove to be weak points that can be used as targets for chemotherapy; others may turn out to be much more widespread than currently suspected.

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