Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Lori Stevens


Rational drug design is a powerful method in which new and innovative therapeutics can be designed based on knowledge of the biological target aiming to provide more efficacious and responsible therapeutics. Understanding aspects of the targeted biological agent is important to optimize drug design and preemptively design to slow or avoid drug resistance. Chagas disease, an endemic disease for South and Central America and Mexico is caused by Trypanosoma cruzi, a protozoan parasite known to consist of six separate genetic clusters or DTUs (discrete typing units). Chagas disease therapeutics are problematic and a call for new therapeutics is widespread. Many researchers are working to use rational drug design for developing Chagas drugs and one potential target that receives a lot of attention is the T. cruzi trans-sialidase protein. Trans-sialidase is a nuclear gene that has been shown to be associated with virulence. In T. cruzi, trans-sialidase (TcTS) codes for a protein that catalyzes the transfer of sialic acid from a mammalian host coating the parasitic surface membrane to avoid immuno-detection. Variance in disease pathology depends somewhat on T. cruzi DTU, as well, there is considerable genetic variation within DTUs. However, the role of TcTS in pathology variance among and within DTU’s is not well understood despite numerous studies of TcTS. These previous studies include determining the crystalline structure of TcTS as well as the TS protein structure in other trypanosomes where the enzyme is often inactive. However, no study has examined the role of natural selection in genetic variation in TcTS. In order to understand the role of natural selection in TcTS DNA sequence and protein variation, we sequenced 540 bp of the TcTS gene from 48 insect vectors. Because all 48 sequences had multiple polymorphic bases, we examined cloned sequences from two of the insect vectors. The data are analyzed to understand the role of natural selection in shaping genetic variation in TcTS and interpreted in light of the possible role of TcTS as a drug target.



Number of Pages

45 p.

Included in

Pharmacology Commons