Successful transmission of the African trypanosome between the mammalian host blood-stream and the tsetse fly vector involves dramatic alterations in the parasite's morphology and biochemistry. This differentiation through to the tsetse midgut procyclic form is accompanied by re-entry into a proliferative cell cycle. Using a synchronous differentiation model and a variety of markers diagnostic for progress through both differentiation and the cell cycle, we have investigated the interplay between these two processes. Our results implicate a relationship between the trypanosome cell cycle position and the perception of the differentiation signal and demonstrate that irreversible commitment to the differentiation occurs rapidly after induction. Furthermore, we show that re-entry into the cell cycle in the differentiating population is synchronous, and that once initiated, progress through the differentiation pathway can be uncoupled from progress through the cell cycle.

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