Pro- and anti-apoptotic activities of protozoan parasites

Institute for Medical Microbiology, Georg-August-University, Kreuzbergring 57, 37075 Göttingen, Germany.
Parasitology (Impact Factor: 2.35). 02/2006; 132 Suppl(S1):S69-85. DOI: 10.1017/S0031182006000874
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT During infection, programmed cell death, i.e. apoptosis, is an important effector mechanism of innate and adaptive host responses to parasites. In addition, it fulfils essential functions in regulating host immunity and tissue homeostasis. Not surprisingly, however, adaptation of parasitic protozoa to their hosts also involves modulation or even exploitation of cell death in order to facilitate parasite survival in a hostile environment. During recent years, considerable progress has been made in our understanding of apoptosis during parasitic infections and there is now convincing evidence that apoptosis and its modulation by protozoan parasites has a major impact on the parasite-host interaction and on the pathogenesis of disease. This review updates our current knowledge on the diverse functions apoptosis may fulfil during infections with diverse protozoan parasites including apicomplexans, kinetoplastids and amoebae. Furthermore, we also summarize common mechanistic themes of the pro- and anti-apoptotic activities of protozoan parasites. The diverse and complex effects which parasitic protozoa exert on apoptotic cell death within the host highlight fascinating interactions of parasites and their hosts. Importantly, they also stress the importance of further investigations before the modulation of host cell apoptosis can be exploited to combat parasitic infections.

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