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mSphere. 2018 Oct 31;3(5). pii: e00366-18. doi: 10.1128/mSphere.00366-18.

Glucose Signaling Is Important for Nutrient Adaptation during Differentiation of Pleomorphic African Trypanosomes.

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Department of Genetics and Biochemistry, Eukaryotic Pathogens Innovation Center, Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina, USA.
Clemson University Genomics & Computational Biology Laboratory, Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina, USA.
Department of Genetics and Biochemistry, Eukaryotic Pathogens Innovation Center, Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina, USA


The African trypanosome has evolved mechanisms to adapt to changes in nutrient availability that occur during its life cycle. During transition from mammalian blood to insect vector gut, parasites experience a rapid reduction in environmental glucose. Here we describe how pleomorphic parasites respond to glucose depletion with a focus on parasite changes in energy metabolism and growth. Long slender bloodstream form parasites were rapidly killed as glucose concentrations fell, while short stumpy bloodstream form parasites persisted to differentiate into the insect-stage procyclic form parasite. The rate of differentiation was lower than that triggered by other cues but reached physiological rates when combined with cold shock. Both differentiation and growth of resulting procyclic form parasites were inhibited by glucose and nonmetabolizable glucose analogs, and these parasites were found to have upregulated amino acid metabolic pathway component gene expression. In summary, glucose transitions from the primary metabolite of the blood-stage infection to a negative regulator of cell development and growth in the insect vector, suggesting that the hexose is not only a key metabolic agent but also an important signaling molecule.IMPORTANCE As the African trypanosome Trypanosoma brucei completes its life cycle, it encounters many different environments. Adaptation to these environments includes modulation of metabolic pathways to parallel the availability of nutrients. Here, we describe how the blood-dwelling life cycle stages of the African trypanosome, which consume glucose to meet their nutritional needs, respond differently to culture in the near absence of glucose. The proliferative long slender parasites rapidly die, while the nondividing short stumpy parasite remains viable and undergoes differentiation to the next life cycle stage, the procyclic form parasite. Interestingly, a sugar analog that cannot be used as an energy source inhibited the process. Furthermore, the growth of procyclic form parasite that resulted from the event was inhibited by glucose, a behavior that is similar to that of parasites isolated from tsetse flies. Our findings suggest that glucose sensing serves as an important modulator of nutrient adaptation in the parasite.


Trypanosoma ; carbon metabolism; glucose sensing

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