Evolving differentiation in African trypanosomes

Juan F. Quintana, Martin Zoltner, Mark C. Field (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)
61 Downloads (Pure)


Differentiation is a central aspect of the parasite lifecycle and encompasses adaptation to both host and environment. If we accept that evolution cannot anticipate an organism’s needs as it enters a new environment, how do parasite differentiation pathways arise? The transition between vertebrate and insect stage African trypano-somes is probably one of the better studied and involves a cell-cycle arrested or ‘stumpy’ form that activates metabolic pathways advantageous to the parasite in the insect host. However, a range of stimuli and stress conditions can trigger similar changes, leading to formation of stumpy-like cellular states. We propose that the origin and optimisation of this differentiation program represents repurposing of a generic stress response to gain considerable gain-of-fitness associated with parasite trans-mission.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)296-303
Number of pages8
JournalTrends in Parasitology
Issue number4
Early online date11 Dec 2020
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


  • Trypanosoma brucei
  • adaptive mechanisms
  • environmental sensing
  • evolution of differentiation
  • life history theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Infectious Diseases


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