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Pays E.,Laboratoire Of Parasitologie Moleculaire
Bulletin et mémoires de l'Académie royale de médecine de Belgique

The evolutionary origin of Man in the African continent has imposed the requirement to resist endemic parasites, in particular African trypanosomes (prototype: Trypanosoma brucei). Therefore, human serum is provided with an efficient system of innate immunity against these parasites, as discovered by A. Laveran in 1902. However, two T. brucei clones, termed T. b. rhodesiense and T. b. gambiense, managed to escape this immunity system, enabling them to grow in humans where they cause sleeping sickness. We have identified the gene allowing T. b. rhodesiense to resist trypanolysis by human serum, which led us to discover that the trypanolytic factor is apolipoprotein L1 (apoL1). ApoL1 is a human-specific serum protein bound to HDL particles that also contain another human-specific protein termed "haptoglobin-related protein " (Hpr). Following the binding of hemoglobin (Hb) to Hpr, the apoL1-bearing HDL particles are avidly taken up by the trypanosome through their binding to a parasite surface receptor for the Hp-Hb complex. After endocytosis apoL1 kills the parasite by generating anionic pores in the lysosomal membrane. In our laboratory, mutant versions of apoL1 have been constructed, which are no longer neutralized by the resistance protein of T. b. rhodesiense and are therefore able to kill this human pathogen. Unexpectedly, we have recently discovered that similar mutants do actually exist in nature : in Africans and Americans of recent African origin, even a single allele of these mutants allows protection against infection by T. b. rhodesiense, but the price to pay is a high frequency of end-stage renal disease when doubly allelic. The evidence of natural selection of these apoL1 mutations despite their deleterious potential for kidneys highlights the importance of the resistance to trypanosomes in the evolution of Man. The mechanism by which mutant apoL1 triggers end-stage renal disease is currently studied. Source

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