Projects per year
Protozoan parasites colonize numerous metazoan hosts and insect vectors through their life cycles, with the need to respond quickly and reversibly while encountering diverse and often hostile ecological niches. To succeed, parasites must also persist within individuals until transmission between hosts is achieved. Several parasitic protozoa cause a huge burden of disease in humans and livestock, and here we focus on the parasites that cause malaria and African trypanosomiasis. Efforts to understand how these pathogens adapt to survive in varied host environments, cause disease, and transmit between hosts have revealed a wealth of epigenetic phenomena. Epigenetic switching mechanisms appear to be ideally suited for the regulation of clonal antigenic variation underlying successful parasitism. We review the molecular players and complex mechanistic layers that mediate the epigenetic regulation of virulence gene expression. Understanding epigenetic processes will aid the development of antiparasitic therapeutics.