Dynamic colocalization of 2 simultaneously active VSG expression sites within a single expression-site body in Trypanosoma brucei

James Budzak, Louise E. Kerry, Aris Aristodemou, Belinda S. Hall, Kathrin Witmer, Manish Kushwaha, Carys Davies, Megan L. Povelones, Jacquelyn R. McDonald, Aakash Sur, Peter J. Myler, Gloria Rudenko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations

Abstract

Monoallelic exclusion ensures that the African trypanosome Trypanosoma brucei exclusively expresses only 1 of thousands of different variant surface glycoprotein (VSG) coat genes. The active VSG is transcribed from 1 of 15 polycistronic bloodstream-form VSG expression sites (ESs), which are controlled in a mutually exclusive fashion. Unusually, T. brucei uses RNA polymerase I (Pol I) to transcribe the active ES, which is unprecedented among eukaryotes. This active ES is located within a unique extranucleolar Pol I body called the expression-site body (ESB). A stringent restriction mechanism prevents T. brucei from expressing multiple ESs at the same time, although how this is mediated is unclear. By using drug-selection pressure, we generated VSG double-expresser T. brucei lines, which have disrupted monoallelic exclusion, and simultaneously express 2 ESs in a dynamic fashion. The 2 unstably active ESs appear epigenetically similar to fully active ESs as determined by using chromatin immunoprecipitation for multiple epigenetic marks (histones H3 and H1, TDP1, and DNA base J). We find that the double-expresser cells, similar to wild-type single-expresser cells, predominantly contain 1 subnuclear ESB, as determined using Pol I or the ESB marker VEX1. Strikingly, simultaneous transcription of the 2 dynamically transcribed ESs is normally observed only when the 2 ESs are both located within this single ESB. This colocalization is reversible in the absence of drug selection. This discovery that simultaneously active ESs dynamically share a single ESB demonstrates the importance of this unique subnuclear body in restricting the monoallelic expression of VSG.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16561-16570
Number of pages10
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume116
Issue number33
DOIs
StatePublished - 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General

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