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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2001 Oct 23;98(22):12648-53. Epub 2001 Oct 9.

Tsetse immune responses and trypanosome transmission: implications for the development of tsetse-based strategies to reduce trypanosomiasis.

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Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, Section of Vector Biology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06510, USA.


Tsetse flies are the medically and agriculturally important vectors of African trypanosomes. Information on the molecular and biochemical nature of the tsetse/trypanosome interaction is lacking. Here we describe three antimicrobial peptide genes, attacin, defensin, and diptericin, from tsetse fat body tissue obtained by subtractive cloning after immune stimulation with Escherichia coli and trypanosomes. Differential regulation of these genes shows the tsetse immune system can discriminate not only between molecular signals specific for bacteria and trypanosome infections but also between different life stages of trypanosomes. The presence of trypanosomes either in the hemolymph or in the gut early in the infection process does not induce transcription of attacin and defensin significantly. After parasite establishment in the gut, however, both antimicrobial genes are expressed at high levels in the fat body, apparently not affecting the viability of parasites in the midgut. Unlike other insect immune systems, the antimicrobial peptide gene diptericin is constitutively expressed in both fat body and gut tissue of normal and immune stimulated flies, possibly reflecting tsetse immune responses to the multiple Gram-negative symbionts it naturally harbors. When flies were immune stimulated with bacteria before receiving a trypanosome containing bloodmeal, their ability to establish infections was severely blocked, indicating that up-regulation of some immune responsive genes early in infection can act to block parasite transmission. The results are discussed in relation to transgenic approaches proposed for modulating vector competence in tsetse.

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