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Ann Trop Med Parasitol. 2001 Dec;95(8):797-810.

Trypanosoma brucei infection induces apoptosis and up-regulates neuroleukin expression in the cerebellum.

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Department of Microbiology, Biochemistry, and Immunology, Morehouse School of Medicine, 720 Westview Dr. S.W., Atlanta, GA 30310-1495, USA.


Human infection with Trypanosoma brucei may result in meningo-encephalitis, neuronal demyelination, blood-brain-barrier dysfunction, peri-vascular infiltration, astrocytosis and neuronal apoptosis. Prevention of the short- or long-term, parasite-induced, neuronal assault requires a better understanding of the host's responses to the infection at the molecular level. Northern analysis, cDNA micro-arrays, reverse-transcriptase-PCR (RT-PCR), SDS-PAGE and immunohistology were therefore used to investigate global gene and protein expression in the brains of mice infected with T. brucei. Temporal and spatial expression of neuroleukin (NLK), a predominant neurotrophin which is associated with neuronal protection and regeneration during neuronal assault in the brain, was then assessed. Expression of 20 of the 588 genes investigated (representing pro- and anti-inflammatory immuno-modulators, growth factors, neurotransmitters, and pro- and anti-apoptosis factors) was significantly altered (P < 0.05). TUNEL analysis revealed extensive apoptosis at peak parasitaemia, mainly in the cerebellum. RT-PCR analysis of two regulators of apoptosis, Bcl-x(L) (anti-apoptotic) and Bax (pro-apoptotic), revealed equivalent increases in levels of expression. NLK expression was up-regulated in punctated fashion in brain and was mainly localized to abnormal (stellate) catecholamine neurons (CN) in the locus coeruleus (LC) of infected [and, to a lesser degree, the normal (polygonal) cells of uninfected] brainstem. Expression of NLK receptor (NLK-R) was inversely correlated with that of NLK. At peak parasitaemia, trypanosome infection apparently induces cerebellar apoptosis and a corresponding increase in NLK expression. NLK may be modulating inflammation and is probably involved in protecting CN and the cerebellum against apoptosis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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