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Parasitology. 1989 Aug;99 Pt 1:67-75.

High frequency of antigenic variation in Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense infections.

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Department of Zoology, University of Glasgow.


Rates at which Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense trypanosomes switch from expression of one variable antigen type (VAT) to that of another have been determined in cloned populations that have been recently tsetse-fly transmitted. Switching rates have been determined between several, specific pairs of VATs in each population. High rates of switching were observed in 2 cloned trypanosome lines, each derived from a separate cyclical transmission of the same parental stock and each expressing a different major VAT. Five estimates of the switching rate between one particular pair of VATs were consistently high (approximately 1 x 10(-3) switches/cell/generation). These high switching rates were similar both in bloodstream populations of mice and in populations confined to subcutaneously implanted growth chambers in mice, thus indicating that the interaction of the bloodstream population with other trypanosome populations in the lymphatics or extravascular sites in systemic infections did not influence the estimates of the rate of switching. Fourteen estimates were made of VAT-specific switching rates in bloodstream infections involving 8 combinations from among 6 VATs. Switching rate estimates were VAT-specific and showed considerable variation between different combinations of VATs--from 1.9 x 10(-6) to 6.9 x 10(-3) switches/cell/generation. The rates of switching to different metacyclic-VATs were, however, very similar. Summation of between 3 and 5 VAT-specific switching rate values in each of 4 experiments conducted in bloodstream infections has provided minimum estimates of the overall rate of antigenic variation: 2.0-9.3 x 10(-3) switches/cell/generation. These values are between 20 and 66,000-fold higher than previously published estimates.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS).

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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