Protozoa of the order kinetoplastida have colonized many habitats, and several species are important parasites of humans. Adaptation to different environments requires an associated adaptation at a cell's interface with its environment, i.e. the plasma membrane. Sugar transport by the kinetoplastida as a phylogenetically related group of organisms offers an exceptional model in which to study the ways by which the carrier proteins involved in this process may evolve to meet differing environmental challenges. Seven genes encoding proteins involved in glucose transport have been cloned from several kinetoplastid species. The transporters all belong to the glucose transporter superfamily exemplified by the mammalian erythrocyte transporter GLUT1. Some species, such as the African trypanosome Trypanosoma brucei, which undergo a life cycle where the parasites are exposed to very different glucose concentrations in the mammalian bloodstream and tsetse-fly midgut, have evolved two different transporters to deal with this fluctuation. Other species, such as the South American trypanosome Trypanosoma cruzi, multiply predominantly in conditions of relative glucose deprivation (intracellularly in the mammalian host, or within the reduviid bug midgut) and have a single, relatively high-affinity type, transporter. All of the kinetoplastid transporters can also transport d-fructose, and are relatively insensitive to the classical inhibitors of GLUT1 transport cytochalasin B and phloretin.

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