The host range of African trypanosomes is influenced by innate protective molecules in the blood of primates. A subfraction of human high-density lipoprotein (HDL) containing apolipoprotein A-I, apolipoprotein L-I, and haptoglobin-related protein is toxic to
Trypanosoma brucei bruceibut not the human sleeping sickness parasite Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense. It is thought that T. b. rhodesienseevolved from a T. b. brucei-like ancestor and expresses a defense protein that ablates the antitrypanosomal activity of human HDL. To directly investigate this possibility, we developed an in vitro selection to generate human HDL-resistant T. b. brucei. Here we show that conversion of T. b. bruceifrom human HDL sensitive to resistant correlates with changes in the expression of the variant surface glycoprotein (VSG) and abolished uptake of the cytotoxic human HDLs. Complete transcriptome analysis of the HDL-susceptible and -resistant trypanosomes confirmed that VSG switching had occurred but failed to reveal the expression of other genes specifically associated with human HDL resistance, including the serum resistance-associated gene ( SRA) of T. b. rhodesiense. In addition, we found that while the original active expression site was still utilized, expression of three expression site-associated genes ( ESAG) was altered in the HDL-resistant trypanosomes. These findings demonstrate that resistance to human HDLs can be acquired by T. b. brucei.