Iron is an essential element for life. Its uptake and utility requires a careful balancing with its toxic capacity, with mammals evolving a safe and bio-viable means of its transport and storage. This transport and storage is also utilized as part of the iron-sequestration arsenal employed by the mammalian hosts' 'nutritional immunity' against parasites. Interestingly, a key element of iron transport, i.e., serum transferrin (Tf), is an essential growth factor for parasitic haemo-protozoans of the genus Trypanosoma. These are major mammalian parasites causing the diseases human African trypanosomosis (HAT) and animal trypanosomosis (AT). Using components of their well-characterized immune evasion system, bloodstream Trypanosoma brucei parasites adapt and scavenge for the mammalian host serum transferrin within their broad host range. The expression site associated genes (ESAG6 and 7) are utilized to construct a heterodimeric serum Tf binding complex which, within its niche in the flagellar pocket, and coupled to the trypanosomes' fast endocytic rate, allows receptor-mediated acquisition of essential iron from their environment. This review summarizes current knowledge of the trypanosomal transferrin receptor (TfR), with emphasis on the structure and function of the receptor, both in physiological conditions as well as in conditions where the iron supply to parasites is being limited. Potential applications using current knowledge of the parasite receptor are also briefly discussed, primarily focused on potential therapeutic interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number126
JournalTropical Medicine and Infectious Disease
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 18 Sep 2019

ID: 47679563