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Mol Biochem Parasitol. 2011 Feb;175(2):201-4. doi: 10.1016/j.molbiopara.2010.11.004. Epub 2010 Nov 11.

The VSG C-terminal domain is inaccessible to antibodies on live trypanosomes.

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Department of Biochemistry, Cambridge, UK.


In the mammalian host, the Trypanosoma brucei cell surface is covered with a densely packed protein coat of a single protein, the variant surface glycoprotein (VSG). The VSG is believed to shield invariant surface proteins from host antibodies but there is limited information on how far antibodies can penetrate into the VSG monolayer. Here, the VSG surface coat was probed to determine whether it acts as a barrier to binding of antibodies to the membrane proximal VSG C-terminal domain. The binding of C-terminal domain antibodies to VSG221 or VSG118 was compared with antibodies recognising the cognate whole VSGs. The C-terminal VSG domain was inaccessible to antibodies on live cells but not on fixed cells. This provides further evidence that the VSG coat acts as a barrier and protects the cell from antibodies that would otherwise bind to some of the other externally disposed proteins.

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