Trypanosoma brucei parasites occupy and functionally adapt to the adipose tissue in mice

Sandra Trindade, Filipa Rijo-Ferreira, Tânia Carvalho, Daniel Pinto-Neves, Fabien Guegan, Francisco Aresta-Branco, Fabio Bento, Simon A Young, Andreia Pinto, Jan Van Den Abbeele, Ruy M Ribeiro, Sérgio Dias, Terry K Smith, Luisa M Figueiredo

    Research output: Contribution to journalA1: Web of Science-articlepeer-review


    Trypanosoma brucei is an extracellular parasite that causes sleeping sickness. In mammalian hosts, trypanosomes are thought to exist in two major niches: early in infection, they populate the blood; later, they breach the blood-brain barrier. Working with a well-established mouse model, we discovered that adipose tissue constitutes a third major reservoir for T. brucei. Parasites from adipose tissue, here termed adipose tissue forms (ATFs), can replicate and were capable of infecting a naive animal. ATFs were transcriptionally distinct from bloodstream forms, and the genes upregulated included putative fatty acid β-oxidation enzymes. Consistent with this, ATFs were able to utilize exogenous myristate and form β-oxidation intermediates, suggesting that ATF parasites can use fatty acids as an external carbon source. These findings identify the adipose tissue as a niche for T. brucei during its mammalian life cycle and could potentially explain the weight loss associated with sleeping sickness.

    Original languageEnglish
    JournalCell Host & Microbe
    Issue number6
    Pages (from-to)837-848
    Number of pages12
    Publication statusPublished - 2016


    Dive into the research topics of 'Trypanosoma brucei parasites occupy and functionally adapt to the adipose tissue in mice'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this