Stable Expression of Mosaic Coats of Variant Surface Glycoproteins in Trypanosoma brucei

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Science  21 Jun 1996:
Vol. 272, Issue 5269, pp. 1795-1797
DOI: 10.1126/science.272.5269.1795


The paradigm of antigenic variation in parasites is the variant surface glycoprotein (VSG) of African trypanosomes. Only one VSG is expressed at any time, except for short periods during switching. The reasons for this pattern of expression and the consequences of expressing more than one VSG are unknown. Trypanosoma brucei was genetically manipulated to generate cell lines that expressed two VSGs simultaneously. These VSGs were produced in equal amounts and were homogeneously distributed on the trypanosome surface. The double-expressor cells had similar population doubling times and were as infective as wild-type cells. Thus, the simultaneous expression of two VSGs is not intrinsically harmful.