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The kinetoplastids are a group of single-cell flagellate
Flagellates are organisms with one or more whip-like organelles called flagella. Some cells in animals may be flagellate, for instance the spermatozoa of most phyla. Flowering plants do not produce flagellate cells, but ferns, mosses, green algae, some gymnosperms and other closely related plants...

Protozoa are a diverse group of single-cells eukaryotic organisms, many of which are motile. Throughout history, protozoa have been defined as single-cell protists with animal-like behavior, e.g., movement...

, including a number of parasites responsible for serious diseases in humans and other animals, as well as various forms found in soil and aquatic environments. They are members of the phylum Euglenozoa
The Euglenozoa are a large group of flagellate protozoa. They include a variety of common free-living species, as well as a few important parasites, some of which infect humans. There are two main subgroups, the euglenids and kinetoplastids...

 and their major distinguishing feature is the presence of a kinetoplast
A kinetoplast is a disk-shaped mass of circular DNA inside a large mitochondrion that contains many copies of the mitochondrial genome. Kinetoplasts are only found in protozoa of the class Kinetoplastida...

, a DNA
Deoxyribonucleic acid is a nucleic acid that contains the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms . The DNA segments that carry this genetic information are called genes, but other DNA sequences have structural purposes, or are involved in...

-containing granule located within the single mitochondrion
In cell biology, a mitochondrion is a membrane-enclosed organelle found in most eukaryotic cells. These organelles range from 0.5 to 1.0 micrometers in diameter...

 associated with the base of the cell's flagella (the basal body
Basal body
A basal body is an organelle formed from a centriole, and a short cylindrical array of microtubules. It is found at the base of a eukaryotic undulipodium and serves as a nucleation site for the growth of the axoneme microtubules...


The kinetoplastids were first defined by Honigberg in 1961 as the flagellate order Kinetoplastida. They are traditionally divided into the biflagellate Bodonidae and uniflagellate Trypanosomatidae; the former appears to be paraphyletic to the latter. One family of kinetoplastids, the trypanosomatids, is notable as it includes several genera which are exclusively parasitic. Bodo
Bodo (genus)
Bodo is a genus of flagellate protozoan. They are free-living relatives of the parasitic trypanosomes. The most well-known species is Bodo saltans....

is a typical genus within kinetoplastida and including various common free-living species which feed on bacteria
Bacteria are a large domain of prokaryotic microorganisms. Typically a few micrometres in length, bacteria have a wide range of shapes, ranging from spheres to rods and spirals...

. Others include Cryptobia
-Introduction:Cryptobia species are protozoa that can lead to disease in fish. C. branchialis is an ectoparasite that lives on the skin or gills of fish, and the other four pathogenic species are endoparasites that live in the circulatory system or intestines.Marine and freshwater fish can be...

and the parasitic Leishmania
Leishmania is a genus of Trypanosomatid protozoa, and is the parasite responsible for the disease leishmaniasis. It is spread through sandflies of the genus Phlebotomus in the Old World, and of the genus Lutzomyia in the New World. Their primary hosts are vertebrates; Leishmania commonly infects...



Kinetoplastids are eukaryotic and possess normal eukaryotic organelles, for example the nucleus, mitochondrion, golgi apparatus and flagellum. Along with these universal structures kinetoplastids have several distinguishing morphological features such as the kinetoplast, sub-pellicular microtubule array and the paraflagellar rod.


The kinetoplast, after which the class is named, contains the mitochondrial genome and is a dense DNA containing granule within the cell's single mitochondrion. The structure is made up of a network of concatenated circular DNA molecules and their associated structural proteins along with DNA
DNA polymerase
A DNA polymerase is an enzyme that helps catalyze in the polymerization of deoxyribonucleotides into a DNA strand. DNA polymerases are best known for their feedback role in DNA replication, in which the polymerase "reads" an intact DNA strand as a template and uses it to synthesize the new strand....

 and RNA polymerase
RNA polymerase
RNA polymerase is an enzyme that produces RNA. In cells, RNAP is needed for constructing RNA chains from DNA genes as templates, a process called transcription. RNA polymerase enzymes are essential to life and are found in all organisms and many viruses...

s. The kinetoplast is found at the base of a cell's flagella and is associated to the flagellum basal body by a cytoskeletal structure.


The cytoskeleton of kinetoplastids is primarily made up of microtubules. These make a highly regular array, the sub-pellicular array, which run parallel just under the cell surface along the long axis of the cell. Other microtubules with more specialised roles, such as the rootlet microtubules, are also present. Kinetoplastids are capable of forming actin
Actin is a globular, roughly 42-kDa moonlighting protein found in all eukaryotic cells where it may be present at concentrations of over 100 μM. It is also one of the most highly-conserved proteins, differing by no more than 20% in species as diverse as algae and humans...

 microfilaments but their role in the cytoskeleton is not clear. Other cytoskeletal structures include the specialised attachment between the flagellum and the kinetoplast.


All kinetoplastids possess at least one flagellum, species in the order trypanosomatida have one and bodonina have two. In kinetoplastids with two flagella most forms have a leading and trailing flagellum
A flagellum is a tail-like projection that protrudes from the cell body of certain prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells, and plays the dual role of locomotion and sense organ, being sensitive to chemicals and temperatures outside the cell. There are some notable differences between prokaryotic and...

, the latter of which may or may not be attached to the side of the cell. The flagella are used for locomotion and attachment to surfaces. The base of the flagella are found in a specialised pocket structure which is also the location of the cytostome
A cytostome or cell mouth is a part of a cell specialized for phagocytosis, usually in the form of a microtubule-supported funnel or groove. Food is directed into the cytostome, and sealed into vacuoles. Only certain groups of protozoa, such as the ciliates and excavates, have cytostomes. Such...


Life cycle

Kinetoplastids may be free-living or parasitic. The order trypanosomatida is notable as it includes many genera which are exclusively parasitic. Trypanosomatids may have simple life cycles in a single host or more complex ones which progress through multiple differentiation stages in two hosts. Dramatic morphological changes are possible between lifecycle stages. Diseases caused by members of the order trypanosomatida include sleeping sickness and Chagas disease
Chagas disease
Chagas disease is a tropical parasitic disease caused by the flagellate protozoan Trypanosoma cruzi. T. cruzi is commonly transmitted to humans and other mammals by an insect vector, the blood-sucking insects of the subfamily Triatominae most commonly species belonging to the Triatoma, Rhodnius,...

, caused by species of Trypanosoma
Trypanosoma is a genus of kinetoplastids , a monophyletic group of unicellular parasitic flagellate protozoa. The name is derived from the Greek trypano and soma because of their corkscrew-like motion. All trypanosomes are heteroxenous and are transmitted via a vector...

, and leishmaniasis
Leishmaniasis is a disease caused by protozoan parasites that belong to the genus Leishmania and is transmitted by the bite of certain species of sand fly...

, caused by species of Leishmania
Leishmania is a genus of Trypanosomatid protozoa, and is the parasite responsible for the disease leishmaniasis. It is spread through sandflies of the genus Phlebotomus in the Old World, and of the genus Lutzomyia in the New World. Their primary hosts are vertebrates; Leishmania commonly infects...


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