The transferrin receptor in African trypanosomes: Identification, partial characterization and subcellular localization

D. J. Grab, M. K. Shaw, C. W. Wells, Y. Verjee, D. C W Russo, P. Webster, J. Naessens, W. R. Fish

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


All eukaryotic cells, including African trypanosomes, require iron for growth and division, and this iron is acquired by the receptor-mediated endocytosis of iron-loaded transferrin (diFe3+-transferrin). In trypanosomes transferrin (Tf) has been shown to be delivered into lysosomes and may not recycle back to the cell surface as it does in mammalian cells. Here, we describe for the first time, the characteristics of a Tf-binding protein with receptor-like properties in Trypanosoma brucei brucei. Bloodstream forms of rodent-adapted T. brucei were incubated with [35S]methionine and detergent lysates chromatographed on a Sephacryl S-300 column. Fractions were incubated with anti-Tf serum to immunoprecipitate Tf/Tf-binding protein complexes. On sodium dodecyl sulfate polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE) the molecular mass of the major protein in the immunoprecipitate was 88 to 92 kDa. Tf binding proteins could also be isolated using diferric Tf-Sepharose. The molecular mass of the major Tf-binding protein, as estimated from Sephacryl S-300 column chromatography, in the presence of detergent, was approximately 90 to 100 kDa and 90 kDa with SDS-PAGE. Each 90 kDa Tf-binding protein was able to bind one molecule of diferric Tf. Since monoclonal antibodies to human and bovine Tf receptors failed to react with any trypanosome proteins, antisera were raised against the T. brucei Tf-binding proteins eluted from Tf-Sepharose at low pH. These antibodies recognized a 90 kDa protein on Western blots of a T. brucei lysate and inhibited the growth of T. brucei in vitro. Immunolocalization studies, using this antiserum showed that the Tf-binding protein was localized in the flagellar pocket and within the early endosomal compartments. In the presence of protease inhibitors there was additional localization in lysosome-like organelles. The Tf-binding characteristics and localization of this 90 kDa protein suggest that this molecule is a strong candidate as a physiological receptor for Tf in these parasites.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)114-126
Number of pages13
JournalEuropean Journal of Cell Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1993
Externally publishedYes


  • Characterization
  • Identification
  • Localization
  • Transferrin receptor
  • Trypanosoma brucei

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology
  • Anatomy


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