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Cell. 1995 Jul 28;82(2):287-96.

Trypanosome invasion of mammalian cells requires activation of the TGF beta signaling pathway.

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Division of Geographic Medicine and Infectious Diseases Tupper Research Institute at Tufts-New England Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts 02111, USA.


Trypanosoma cruzi invades most nucleated mammalian cells by as yet unknown mechanisms. We report here that while T. cruzi attaches to epithelial cells lacking signaling transforming growth factor beta (TGF beta) receptor I or II, the adherent parasites cannot penetrate and replicate inside the mutant cells, as they do in parental cells. Invasion of the mutants is restored by transfection with the TGF beta receptor genes, as are biological responses to TGF beta. Similar rescue of both TGF beta antiproliferative response and T. cruzi invasion was demonstrated in a hybrid of TGF beta-resistant bladder and colon carcinoma cells. In addition, T. cruzi did not efficiently invade epithelial cells with dysfunction of the intracellular signaling cascade caused by the constitutive expression of the cyclin-dependent kinase cdk4 or of the oncogene H-ras. Treatment with TGF beta, but not with other antiproliferative agents of non-phagocytic cells, greatly enhances T. cruzi invasion. Moreover, infective, but not noninfective, trypanosomes strongly induce a TGF beta-responsive reporter gene in TGF beta-sensitive, but not in TGF beta-insensitive, cell lines. Thus, T. cruzi itself may directly trigger activation of the TGF beta signaling pathway required for parasite entry into the mammalian cells.

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