A New Paradigm for Cell Motility in African Trypanosomes



Author:  Donald Chang
Institution:  University of California, Los Angeles
Date:  June 2009


Trypanosoma brucei is the causative pathogen for the fatal human disease African sleeping sickness. For over 160 years, cellular propulsion in Trypanosoma brucei has been considered to be in an auger-like motion and current understanding of the motility states the cell moves using left-helical waves which propagate along the flagellum. In contrast to the uniform flagellar beats laid out by the traditional model, we find that the frequency was lower at the posterior end compared to the anterior end, suggestive of an alternative and unique mechanism of motility exhibited by Trypanosoma brucei. Our new studies are significant in pioneering a new direction and providing important insight into the actual model of Trypanosma brucei’s movement. As Trypanosome motility is central to disease pathogenesis, parasite development and disease transmission, this investigation provides a requisite step in efforts to exploit cell motility as a target for disease control in African sleeping sickness.