Chromatin-Associated Protein Complexes Link DNA Base J and Transcription Termination in

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genomics; seattle; washington; ISB


Unlike most other eukaryotes, Leishmania and other trypanosomatid protozoa have largely eschewed transcriptional control of gene expression, relying instead on posttranscriptional regulation of mRNAs derived from polycistronic transcription units (PTUs). In these parasites, a novel modified nucleotide base (β-d-glucopyranosyloxymethyluracil) known as J plays a critical role in ensuring that transcription termination occurs only at the end of each PTU, rather than at the polyadenylation sites of individual genes. To further understand the biology of J-associated processes, we used tandem affinity purification (TAP) tagging and mass spectrometry to reveal proteins that interact with the glucosyltransferase performing the final step in J synthesis. These studies identified four proteins reminiscent of subunits in the PTW/PP1 complex that controls transcription termination in higher eukaryotes. Moreover, bioinformatic analyses identified the DNA-binding subunit of Leishmania PTW/PP1 as a novel J-binding protein (JBP3), which is also part of another complex containing proteins with domains suggestive of a role in chromatin modification/remodeling. Additionally, JBP3 associates (albeit transiently and/or indirectly) with the trypanosomatid equivalent of the PAF1 complex involved in the regulation of transcription in other eukaryotes. The downregulation of JBP3 expression levels in Leishmania resulted in a substantial increase in transcriptional readthrough at the 3' end of most PTUs. We propose that JBP3 recruits one or more of these complexes to the J-containing regions at the end of PTUs, where they halt the progression of the RNA polymerase. This decoupling of transcription termination from the splicing of individual genes enables the parasites' unique reliance on polycistronic transcription and posttranscriptional regulation of gene expression.IMPORTANCE Leishmania parasites cause a variety of serious human diseases, with no effective vaccine and emerging resistance to current drug therapy. We have previously shown that a novel DNA base called J is critical for transcription termination at the ends of the polycistronic gene clusters that are a hallmark of Leishmania and related trypanosomatids. Here, we describe a new J-binding protein (JBP3) associated with three different protein complexes that are reminiscent of those involved in the control of transcription in other eukaryotes. However, the parasite complexes have been reprogrammed to regulate transcription and gene expression in trypanosomatids differently than in the mammalian hosts, providing new opportunities to develop novel chemotherapeutic treatments against these important pathogens.


Institute for Systems Biology