Since the discovery of Trypanosoma cruzi
and the brilliant description of the then-referred to “new tripanosomiasis”
by Carlos Chagas 100 years ago, a great deal of scientific effort and curiosity has been devoted to understanding
how this parasite invades and colonises mammalian host cells. This is a key step in the survival of the parasite within the vertebrate host, and although much has been learned over this century, differences in strains or isolates used by different laboratories may have led to conclusions that are not as universal as originally interpreted.
Molecular genotyping of the CL-Brener clone confirmed a genetic heterogeneity in the parasite that had been detected previously by other techniques, including zymodeme or schizodeme (kDNA) analysis. T. cruzi
can be grouped into at least two major phylogenetic lineages: T. cruzi
I, mostly associated with the sylvatic cycle and T. cruzi
II, linked to human disease; however, a third lineage, T. cruzi
III, has also been proposed. Hybrid isolates, such as the CL-Brener clone, which was chosen for sequencing the genome of the parasite (Elias et al. 2005, El Sayed et al. 2005a), have also been identified. The parasite must be able to invade cells in the mammalian host, and many studies have implicated the flagellated trypomastigotes as the main actor in this process. Several surface components of parasites and some of the host cell receptors with which they interact have been described. Herein, we have attempted to identify milestones in the history of understanding T. cruzi
- host cell interactions. Different infective forms of T. cruzi
have displayed unexpected requirements for the parasite to attach to the host cell, enter it, and translocate between the parasitophorous vacuole to its final cytoplasmic destination. It is noteworthy that some of the mechanisms originally proposed to be broad in function turned out not to be universal, and multiple interactions
involving different repertoires of molecules seem to act in concert to give rise to a rather complex interplay of signalling cascades involving both parasite and cellular components.