Jump to Main Content
Does DNA replication direct locus-specific recombination during host immune evasion by antigenic variation in the African trypanosome?
- Devlin, Rebecca, Marques, Catarina A., McCulloch, Richard
- Current genetics 2017 v.63 no.3 pp. 441-449
- DNA replication, adaptive immunity, antigenic variation, gene conversion, genes, glycoproteins, homologous recombination, immune evasion, models, pathogens, telomeres, transcription (genetics)
- All pathogens must survive host immune attack and, amongst the survival strategies that have evolved, antigenic variation is a particularly widespread reaction to thwart adaptive immunity. Though the reactions that underlie antigenic variation are highly varied, recombination by gene conversion is a widespread approach to immune survival in bacterial and eukaryotic pathogens. In the African trypanosome, antigenic variation involves gene conversion-catalysed movement of a huge number of variant surface glycoprotein (VSG) genes into a few telomeric sites for VSG expression, amongst which only a single site is actively transcribed at one time. Genetic evidence indicates VSG gene conversion has co-opted the general genome maintenance reaction of homologous recombination, aligning the reaction strategy with targeted rearrangements found in many organisms. What is less clear is how gene conversion might be initiated within the locality of the VSG expression sites. Here, we discuss three emerging models for VSG switching initiation and ask how these compare with processes for adaptive genome change found in other organisms.