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Trypanosomes use a microtubule-focused mechanism for cell morphogenesis and cytokinesis. We used scanning electron and video microscopy of living cells to provide the first detailed description of cell morphogenesis and cytokinesis in the early-branching eukaryote Trypanosoma brucei. We outline four distinct stages of cytokinesis and show that an asymmetric division fold bisects the two daughter cells, with a cytoplasmic bridge-like structure connecting the two daughters immediately prior to abscission. Using detection of tyrosinated α-tubulin as a marker for new or growing microtubules and expression of XMAP215, a plus end binding protein, as a marker for microtubule plus ends we demonstrate spatial asymmetry in the underlying microtubule cytoskeleton throughout the cell division cycle. This leads to inheritance of different microtubule cytoskeletal patterns and demonstrates the major role of microtubules in achieving cytokinesis. RNA interference techniques have led to a large set of mutants, often with variations in phenotype between procyclic and bloodstream life cycle forms. Here, we show morphogenetic differences between these two life cycle forms of this parasite during new flagellum growth and cytokinesis. These discoveries are important tools to explain differences between bloodstream and procyclic form RNAi phenotypes involving organelle mis-positioning during cell division and cytokinesis defects.

Original publication




Journal article


Mol Microbiol

Publication Date





1339 - 1355


Animals, Cell Cycle, Cytokinesis, Cytoskeleton, Life Cycle Stages, Microscopy, Electron, Scanning, Microtubules, Morphogenesis, Mutation, Protozoan Proteins, Trypanosoma brucei brucei, Tsetse Flies