Antigenic variation observed during the course of infections with Trypanosoma brucei in mammals is caused by amino acid sequence changes in a variable surface glycoprotein (VSG)1–3. Antisera to isolated VSGs generally react only with the surface of homologous trypanosomes in neutralization and immunofluorescence tests1,4, except in the case of certain ‘isotypic’ populations derived from different field isolates of trypanosomes5. An important question in evaluating the possibility of a vaccine is whether a single trypanosome can change into a second population which shares some, but not all, surface exposed epitopes during the limited time span of several sequential infections. If any trypanosomes in a mixture share exposed epitopes, the complexity of the necessary immunogen is reduced. We show here that two trypanosome clones WaTat 1.1 and WaTat 1.12, derived by differentiation from a single organism, have partially homologous VSGs and indeed share some similar exposed epitopes. Hence, a monospecific anti-VSG antiserum neutralizes both trypanosomes. However, several surface-exposed epitopes in WaTat 1.12 VSG exhibit reduced binding affinity for monoclonal antibodies made against WaTat 1.1 VSG and one epitope present on WaTat 1.1 trypanosomes is missing from the surface of WaTat 1.12 organisms.
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Barbet, A., Davis, W. & McGuire, T. Cross-neutralization of two different trypanosome populations derived from a single organism. Nature 300, 453–456 (1982). https://doi.org/10.1038/300453a0
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