A Trypanosoma brucei mutant resistant to α-difluoromethylornithine

Margaret A. Phillips, Ching C. Wang

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43 Scopus citations


Procyclic Trypanosoma brucei brucei strain 366D is susceptible to dl-α-difluoromethylornithine (DFMO) with an in vitro ED50 value of 225 μM. A mutant of the procyclic strain resistant to 20 mM of DFMO was isolated by serial in vitro passages of the organisms in increasing concentrations of the drug. Drug resistance remains unchanged after at least ten serial passages in the absence of DFMO. The mutant contains the same level of ornithine decarboxylase activity as the wild-type procyclic, and the mutant enzyme exhibits a similar susceptibility toward DFMO as the wild type. Neither the rate of decarboxylation of ornithine, nor the membrane potential in the mutant cell is changed. The only observed change in the mutant is its significantly decreased uptake of DFMO which reaches a saturating level of 18 μM inside the cells; a concentration seven times below the Ki value of DFMO on T. brucei ornithine decarboxylase (130 μM). Apparently, the failure of DFMO uptake in the mutant strain has provided the basis of drug resistance. The results also raise the question on whether the uptake of DFMO by T. brucei is by passive diffusion or by transporter(s) mediation. DFMO does not compete with the uptake of ornithine, arginine or putrescine, and the reverse holds also true. However, the mutant strain cultivated under DFMO for several generations has a greatly enhanced uptake of ornithine and a moderately heightened uptake of putrescine. Both are reduced to the normal level upon further propagations of the mutant strain in the absence of DFMO.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9-17
Number of pages9
JournalMolecular and Biochemical Parasitology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 1987


  • Drug uptake
  • Ornithine
  • Putrescine
  • Trypanosoma brucei, Drug resistance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Molecular Biology


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