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Nat Med. 2000 Aug;6(8):890-7.

A B-cell mitogen from a pathogenic trypanosome is a eukaryotic proline racemase.

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Département d'Immunologie, CNRS URA 1960, Institut Pasteur, 25 rue du Dr. Roux, 75724 Paris CEDEX 15, France.


Lymphocyte polyclonal activation is a generalized mechanism of immune evasion among pathogens. In a mouse model of Trypanosoma cruzi infection (American trypanosomiasis), reduced levels of polyclonal lymphocyte responses correlate with resistance to infection and cardiopathy. We report here the characterization of a parasite protein with B-cell mitogenic properties in culture supernatants of infective forms, the cloning of the corresponding gene and the analysis of the biological properties of its product. We characterized the protein as a co-factor-independent proline racemase, and show that its expression as a cytoplasmic and/or membrane-associated protein is life-stage specific. Inhibition studies indicate that availability of the racemase active site is necessary for mitogenic activity. This is the first report to our knowledge of a eukaryotic amino acid racemase gene. Our findings have potential consequences for the development of new immune therapies and drug design against pathogens.

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