Cleavage of trypanosome surface glycoproteins by alkaline trypsin-like enzyme(s) in the midgut of Glossina morsitans

Matthias Liniger, Alvaro Acosta-Serrano, Jan Van Den Abbeele, Christina Kunz Renggli, Reto Brun, Paul T. Englund, Isabel Roditi

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26 Scopus citations


EP and GPEET procyclin, the major surface glycoproteins of procyclic forms of Trypanosoma brucei, are truncated by proteases in the midgut of the tsetse fly Glossina morsitans morsitans. We show that soluble extracts from the midguts of teneral flies contain trypsin-like enzymes that cleave the N-terminal domains from living culture-derived parasites. The same extract shows little activity against a variant surface glycoprotein on living bloodstream form T. brucei (MITat 1.2) and none against glutamic acid/alanine-rich protein, a major surface glycoprotein of Trypanosoma congolense insect forms although both these proteins contain potential trypsin cleavage sites. Gel filtration of tsetse midgut extract revealed three peaks of tryptic activity against procyclins. Trypsin alone would be sufficient to account for the cleavage of GPEET at a single arginine residue in the fly. In contrast, the processing of EP at multiple sites would require additional enzymes that might only be induced or activated during feeding or infection. Unexpectedly, the pH optima for both the procyclin cleavage reaction and digestion of the trypsin-specific synthetic substrate Chromozym-TRY were extremely alkaline (pH 10). Direct measurements were made of the pH within different compartments of the tsetse digestive tract. We conclude that the gut pH of teneral flies, from the proventriculus to the hindgut, is alkaline, in contradiction to previous measurements indicating that it was mildly acidic. When tsetse flies were analysed 48 h after their first bloodmeal, a pH gradient from the proventriculus (pH 10.6±0.6) to the posterior midgut (pH 7.9±0.4) was observed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1319-1328
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal for Parasitology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Oct 2003


  • Procyclin
  • Protease
  • Trypanosome
  • Trypsin
  • Tsetse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Infectious Diseases


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