Article révisé par les pairs
Résumé : Restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) has been analysed in Trypanosoma brucei DNA following hybridization with different DNA probes. This polymorphism seems to be due to allelic variation, and not to variation between sequence duplicates, since the genomic environment of the probed polymorphic fragments is conserved over considerable distances. In an analysis of 35 non-gambiense stocks, we found different combinations of homozygotes and heterozygotes for the four RFLP probes used, in keeping with previous observations that genetic reassortment occurs in T. b. brucei. Moreover, the non-gambiense populations from West and East Africa can be differentiated according to their characteristic allele frequencies. In sharp contrast, we found that the 49 T. b. gambiense stocks, analysed with the same probes, share the same single allelic combination and are all homozygous for each one of the four markers. This characteristic gambiense allele combination is very common among Western non-gambiense isolates, but rare or absent among Eastern ones. Two stocks isolated from man in West Africa turned out to be non-gambiense by all molecular criteria examined, including total nuclear DNA content. Taken together, these observations suggest that human serum-resistant variants may appear among the West African T. b. brucei population, and that T. b. gambiense evolved from one of these resistant variants as a man-adapted subspecies that became genetically isolated from the rest of the West African trypanosome population.