Directing differentiation in Theileria annulata: old methods and new possibilities for control of apicomplexan parasites

Abstract : Apicomplexan parasites are major pathogens of humans and domesticated animals. The ability of these organisms to evade the host immune response and the emergence of drug-resistant parasites indicates a need for the identification of novel control strategies. Ideally, selected targets should be shared by a range of apicomplexans and fundamental to parasite biology. One process of apicomplexan biology which may provide this type of target is the molecular regulation of stage differentiation. This paper has reviewed studies carried out on differentiation of Theileria annulata and has highlighted general similarities with other apicomplexan differentiation steps. Similarities include asynchrony of differentiation, the loss (attenuation) of differentiation potential and an association between reduced proliferation and differentiation. In addition, novel data are presented assessing a possible role for a signal transduction mechanism or a direct involvement of classical heat-shock polypeptides in regulating differentiation of T. annulata in vitro. These studies, and previously published data, have led to the postulation that progression to the next stage of the life-cycle can be predetermined and involves the attainment of a quantitative threshold by regulators of gene expression. A modification of this model takes into account that for certain in-vitro systems, or differentiation steps in vivo, the process has to be initiated by alteration of the extracellular environment. Work which has shown that the time taken to achieve differentiation can be increased or decreased is also outlined. The ability to change the timing of differentiation suggests that the associated regulatory mechanism could be manipulated directly to significantly influence the outcome of an apicomplexan infection. The observation that a number of existing drugs and control strategies may exert their protective effect by altering differentiation potential supports this possibility.
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Brian Shiels, David Swan, Sue Mckellar, Nasreen Aslam, Caroline Dando, et al.. Directing differentiation in Theileria annulata: old methods and new possibilities for control of apicomplexan parasites. International Journal for Parasitology, Elsevier, 1998, 28 (11), pp.1659-1670. ⟨10.1016/S0020-7519(98)00131-3⟩. ⟨pasteur-02050762⟩

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