1. 1. Trypanosomes are unicellular parasites that cause human sleeping sickness in Africa and Chaga's disease in South America. Glycoproteins are important components of their plasma membrane. 2. 2. The bloodstream form of the extracellular salivarian African trypanosome (e.g. Trypanosoma brucei) has the ability to express on its cell surface a repertoire of variant surface glycoproteins (VSGs) and in so doing, evades the immune response of the host (antigenic variation). 3. 3. The VSG is probably synthesized initially in a manner like that of the membrane-bound glycoproteins of mammalian systems, but it also undergoes some novel post-translational modifications. 4. 4. The stercorarian South American trypanosome (Trypanosoma cruzi) is an intracellular parasite which expresses different glycoproteins on its plasma membrane at various stages of its life-cycle, but does not exhibit antigenic variation. 5. 5. The biosynthesis and functions of trypanosomal glycoproteins are compared with those of mammalian glycoproteins, and are discussed with particular reference to potential targets for chemotherapy and immunotherapy of trypanosomiasis. © 1987.
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