Nucleoside transporters are likely to play a central role in the biochemistry of the parasite Trypanosoma brucei, since these protozoa are unable to synthesize purines de novo and must salvage them from their hosts. Furthermore, nucleoside transporters have been implicated in the uptake of antiparasitic and experimental drugs in these and other parasites. We have cloned the gene for a T. brucei nucleoside transporter, TbNT2, and shown that this permease is related in sequence to mammalian equilibrative nucleoside transporters. Expression of the TbNT2 gene in Xenopus oocytes reveals that the permease transports adenosine, inosine, and guanosine and hence has the substrate specificity of the P1 type nucleoside transporters that have been previously characterized by uptake assays in intact parasites. TbNT2 mRNA is expressed in bloodstream form (mammalian host stage) parasites but not in procyclic form (insect stage) parasites, indicating that the gene is developmentally regulated during the parasite life cycle. Genomic Southern blots suggest that there are multiple genes related in sequence to TbNT2, implying the existence of a family of nucleoside transporter genes in these parasites.
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