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Quorum sensing in African trypanosomes

Rojas, Federico, Matthews, Keith R
Current opinion in microbiology 2019 v.52 pp. 124-129
Trypanosoma, animal diseases, bacteria, eukaryotic cells, group behavior, humans, mixed infection, models, oligopeptides, parasites, peptidases, quorum sensing, signal transduction, Africa
Many microbial eukaryotes exhibit cell-cell communication to co-ordinate group behaviours as a strategy to exploit a changed environment, adapt to adverse conditions or regulate developmental responses. Although best characterised in bacteria, eukaryotic microbes have also been revealed to cooperate to optimise their survival or dissemination. An excellent model for these processes are African trypanosomes, protozoa responsible for important human and animal disease in sub Saharan Africa. These unicellular parasites use density sensing in their mammalian host to prepare for transmission. Recently, the signal and signal transduction pathway underlying this activity have been elucidated, revealing that the parasite exploits oligopeptide signals generated by released peptidases to monitor cell density and so generate transmission stages. Here we review the evidence for this elegant quorum sensing mechanism and its parallels with similar mechanisms in other microbial systems. We also discuss its implications for disease spread in the context of coinfections involving different trypanosome species.