“The battle for iron between African trypanosomes and their vertebrate hosts”

Thursday 26 January 2023

BCDD Seminar by Dr Calvin Tiengwe, Department of Life Sciences, Imperial College, London

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Thursday 26 January 2023, 12:00 - 13:00
Medical Sciences Institute (MSI)

University of Dundee
Dow Street
Dundee DD1 5HL

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Booking required?

Host:  Professor Sir Mike Ferguson

Location: MSI Small Lecture Theatre


Iron is an essential nutrient for almost all living organisms. Its restriction by host cells is an elegant strategy to limit pathogenicity during an infection. How microbial pathogens overcome such sequestration are well-studied, but poorly understood in Trypanosoma brucei, divergent eukaryotic parasites of humans and livestock.

We have applied transcriptomic and proteomic approaches and identified a cohort of trypanosome-specific genes whose expression levels change during iron deprivation, including an iron responsive RNA binding protein (RBP5). Here, we report on their mechanisms and kinetics of activation during iron deprivation. We identified a cis-acting iron responsive element in 3’ untranslated region of RBP5 and show that increased RBP5 expression likely facilitates lifecycle transitions during an infection. Overall, our data show that iron uptake and regulatory mechanisms in trypanosomes have diverged significantly from their hosts, indicative of a divergent pathway that can be exploited for therapeutics.


Our group also studies whether sequence polymorphisms in iron transporters contribute to disease transmission. We have collected trypanosomes from 450 livestock in in Accra, Ghana and found that the predominant circulating trypanosome species was T. brucei with predominant infections of sheep. This highlights the need to consider other domestic animals when implementing control measures for trypanosomiasis elimination. We are using next generation sequencing to study the evolutionary diversity of one iron import protein, the transferrin receptor, to understand whether polymorphisms in this gene enable trypanosomes to expand their host reservoirs.







Event type Seminar