Infections With Extracellular Trypanosomes Require Control by Efficient Innate Immune Mechanisms and Can Result in the Destruction of the Mammalian Humoral Immune System

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Salivarian trypanosomes are extracellular parasites that affect humans, livestock, and game animals around the world. Through co-evolution with the mammalian immune system, trypanosomes have developed defense mechanisms that allow them to thrive in blood, lymphoid vessels, and tissue environments such as the brain, the fat tissue, and testes. Trypanosomes have developed ways to circumvent antibody-mediated killing and block the activation of the lytic arm of the complement pathway. Hence, this makes the innate immune control of the infection a crucial part of the host-parasite interaction, determining infection susceptibility, and parasitemia control. Indeed, trypanosomes use a combination of several independent mechanisms to avoid clearance by the humoral immune system. First, perpetuated antigenic variation of the surface coat allows to escape antibody-mediated elimination. Secondly, when antibodies bind to the coat, they are efficiently transported toward the endocytosis pathway, where they are removed from the coat proteins. Finally, trypanosomes engage in the active destruction of the mammalian humoral immune response. This provides them with a rescue solution in case antigenic variation does not confer total immunological invisibility. Both antigenic variation and B cell destruction pose significant hurdles for the development of anti-trypanosome vaccine strategies. However, developing total immune escape capacity and unlimited growth capabilities within a mammalian host is not beneficial for any parasite, as it will result in the accelerated death of the host itself. Hence, trypanosomes have acquired a system of quorum sensing that results in density-dependent population growth arrest in order to prevent overpopulating the host. The same system could possibly sense the infection-associated host tissue damage resulting from inflammatory innate immune responses, in which case the quorum sensing serves to prevent excessive immunopathology and as such also promotes host survival. In order to put these concepts together, this review summarizes current knowledge on the interaction between trypanosomes and the mammalian innate immune system, the mechanisms involved in population growth regulation, antigenic variation and the immuno-destructive effect of trypanosomes on the humoral immune system. Vaccine trials and a discussion on the role of innate immune modulation in these trials are discussed at the end.

Original languageEnglish
Article number382
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalFrontiers in Immunology
Issue number382
Publication statusPublished - 11 Mar 2020

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2020 Magez, Pinto Torres, Obishakin and Radwanska.


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