a1 Department of Pathology, University of Cambridge, Tennis Court Road, Cambridge, UK
a2 Laboratories of Cellular and Structural Biology, The Rockefeller University, New York, USA
a3 Mass Spectrometry and Gaseous Ion Chemistry, The Rockefeller University, New York, USA
Trypanosomatids represent the causative agents of major diseases in humans, livestock and plants, with inevitable suffering and economic hardship as a result. They are also evolutionarily highly divergent organisms, and the many unique aspects of trypanosome biology provide opportunities in terms of identification of drug targets, the challenge of exploiting these putative targets and, at the same time, significant scope for exploration of novel and divergent cell biology. We can estimate from genome sequences that the degree of divergence of trypanosomes from animals and fungi is extreme, with perhaps one third to one half of predicted trypanosome proteins having no known function based on homology or recognizable protein domains/architecture. Two highly important aspects of trypanosome biology are the flagellar pocket and the nuclear envelope, where in silico analysis clearly suggests great potential divergence in the proteome. The flagellar pocket is the sole site of endo- and exocytosis in trypanosomes and plays important roles in immune evasion via variant surface glycoprotein (VSG) trafficking and providing a location for sequestration of various invariant receptors. The trypanosome nuclear envelope has been largely unexplored but, by analogy with higher eukaryotes, roles in the regulation of chromatin and most significantly, in controlling VSG gene expression are expected. Here we discuss recent successful proteomics-based approaches towards characterization of the nuclear envelope and the endocytic apparatus, the identification of conserved and novel trypanosomatid-specific features, and the implications of these findings.
(Received September 14 2011)
(Revised October 31 2011)
(Accepted November 03 2011)
(Online publication February 06 2012)