Flagellum Structure and Function in Trypanosomes

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Abstract

Trypanosomes are flagellated protozoan parasites responsible for devastating diseases in human and cattle. Recently, they have emerged as new models to study cilia and flagella thanks to powerful reverse genetics approaches coupled to the full sequencing of the genome of several species. In this chapter, we describe the ultra-structural features of the Trypanosoma brucei flagellum, revealing evolutionarily conserved aspects of the axoneme or the basal body and specific elements such as the paraflagellar rod or the flagellum attachment zone. We update the numerous functions demonstrated for this organelle, keeping in mind that most data were obtained from cultured parasites. The next challenges will be the determination of the role of the flagellum in the complex T. brucei life cycle, transiting through tissues of the tsetse fly vector and swimming in the bloodstream of mammals.