Histone H3 Variant Regulates RNA Polymerase II Transcription Termination and Dual Strand Transcription of siRNA Loci in Trypanosoma brucei.
ABSTRACT: Base J, ?-D-glucosyl-hydroxymethyluracil, is a chromatin modification of thymine in the nuclear DNA of flagellated protozoa of the order Kinetoplastida. In Trypanosoma brucei, J is enriched, along with histone H3 variant (H3.V), at sites involved in RNA Polymerase (RNAP) II termination and telomeric sites involved in regulating variant surface glycoprotein gene (VSG) transcription by RNAP I. Reduction of J in T. brucei indicated a role of J in the regulation of RNAP II termination, where the loss of J at specific sites within polycistronic gene clusters led to read-through transcription and increased expression of downstream genes. We now demonstrate that the loss of H3.V leads to similar defects in RNAP II termination within gene clusters and increased expression of downstream genes. Gene derepression is intensified upon the subsequent loss of J in the H3.V knockout. mRNA-seq indicates gene derepression includes VSG genes within the silent RNAP I transcribed telomeric gene clusters, suggesting an important role for H3.V in telomeric gene repression and antigenic variation. Furthermore, the loss of H3.V at regions of overlapping transcription at the end of convergent gene clusters leads to increased nascent RNA and siRNA production. Our results suggest base J and H3.V can act independently as well as synergistically to regulate transcription termination and expression of coding and non-coding RNAs in T. brucei, depending on chromatin context (and transcribing polymerase). As such these studies provide the first direct evidence for histone H3.V negatively influencing transcription elongation to promote termination.
Project description:African trypanosomes evade clearance by host antibodies by periodically changing their variant surface glycoprotein (VSG) coat. They transcribe only one VSG gene at a time from 1 of about 20 telomeric expression sites (ESs). They undergo antigenic variation by switching transcription between telomeric ESs or by recombination of the VSG gene expressed. We show that the inositol phosphate (IP) pathway controls transcription of telomeric ESs and VSG antigenic switching in Trypanosoma brucei. Conditional knockdown of phosphatidylinositol 5-kinase (TbPIP5K) or phosphatidylinositol 5-phosphatase (TbPIP5Pase) or overexpression of phospholipase C (TbPLC) derepresses numerous silent ESs in T. brucei bloodstream forms. The derepression is specific to telomeric ESs, and it coincides with an increase in the number of colocalizing telomeric and RNA polymerase I foci in the nucleus. Monoallelic VSG transcription resumes after reexpression of TbPIP5K; however, most of the resultant cells switched the VSG gene expressed. TbPIP5K, TbPLC, their substrates, and products localize to the plasma membrane, whereas TbPIP5Pase localizes to the nucleus proximal to telomeres. TbPIP5Pase associates with repressor/activator protein 1 (TbRAP1), and their telomeric silencing function is altered by TbPIP5K knockdown. These results show that specific steps in the IP pathway control ES transcription and antigenic switching in T. brucei by epigenetic regulation of telomere silencing.
Project description:African trypanosomes show monoallelic expression of one of about 20 telomeric variant surface glycoprotein (VSG) gene-expression sites (ESs) while multiplying in the mammalian bloodstream. We screened for genes involved in ES silencing using flow cytometry and RNA interference (RNAi). We show that a novel member of the ISWI family of SWI2/SNF2-related chromatin-remodelling proteins (TbISWI) is involved in ES downregulation in Trypanosoma brucei. TbISWI has an atypical protein architecture for an ISWI, as it lacks characteristic SANT domains. Depletion of TbISWI by RNAi leads to 30-60-fold derepression of ESs in bloodstream-form T. brucei, and 10-17-fold derepression in insect form T. brucei. We show that although blocking synthesis of TbISWI leads to derepression of silent VSG ES promoters, this does not lead to fully processive transcription of silent ESs, or an increase in ES-activation rates. VSG ES activation in African trypanosomes therefore appears to be a multistep process, whereby an increase in transcription from a silent ES promoter is necessary but not sufficient for full ES activation.
Project description:Trypanosoma brucei is a protozoan parasite that lacks many transcription factors found in other eukaryotes, such as those whose binding demarcates enhancers. T. brucei retains histone variants and modifications, however, and it is hypothesized that it relies on epigenetic marks to define transcription-related boundaries. The histone H3 variant (H3.V) and an alternate nucleotide, base J (ß-D-glucosyl-hydroxymethyluracil), are two chromatin marks found at both transcription termination sites (TTSs) and telomeres. Here, we report that the absence of both base J and H3.V result in transcription readthrough and the appearance of antisense transcripts near TTSs. Additionally, we find that maintaining the transcriptional silencing of pol I-transcribed telomeric Variant Surface Glycoprotein (VSG) genes appears to be dependent on deposition of H3.V alone. Our study reveals that gene expression depends on different epigenetic cues depending on chromosomal location and on the transcribing polymerase. This work provides insight into how these signals may have evolved into the more nuanced and fine-tuned gene regulatory mechanisms observed in other model systems.
Project description:Base J, ?-d-glucosyl-hydroxymethyluracil, is an epigenetic modification of thymine in the nuclear DNA of flagellated protozoa of the order Kinetoplastida. J is enriched at sites involved in RNA polymerase (RNAP) II initiation and termination. Reduction of J in Leishmania tarentolae via growth in BrdU resulted in cell death and indicated a role of J in the regulation of RNAP II termination. To further explore J function in RNAP II termination among kinetoplastids and avoid indirect effects associated with BrdU toxicity and genetic deletions, we inhibited J synthesis in Leishmania major and Trypanosoma brucei using DMOG. Reduction of J in L. major resulted in genome-wide defects in transcription termination at the end of polycistronic gene clusters and the generation of antisense RNAs, without cell death. In contrast, loss of J in T. brucei did not lead to genome-wide termination defects; however, the loss of J at specific sites within polycistronic gene clusters led to altered transcription termination and increased expression of downstream genes. Thus, J regulation of RNAP II transcription termination genome-wide is restricted to Leishmania spp., while in T. brucei it regulates termination and gene expression at specific sites within polycistronic gene clusters.
Project description:The African trypanosome Trypanosoma brucei monoallelically expresses one of more than 1000 Variant Surface Glycoprotein (VSG) genes. The active VSG is transcribed from one of about 15 telomeric VSG expression sites (ESs). It is unclear how monoallelic expression of VSG is controlled, and how inactive VSG ESs are silenced. Here, we show that blocking synthesis of the T. brucei FACT subunit TbSpt16 triggers a G2/early M phase cell cycle arrest in both bloodstream and insect form T. brucei. Segregation of T. brucei minichromosomes in these stalled cells is impaired, implicating FACT in maintenance of centromeres. Strikingly, knock-down of TbSpt16 results in 20- to 23-fold derepression of silent VSG ES promoters in bloodstream form T. brucei, with derepression specific to the G2/M cell cycle stage. In insect form T. brucei TbSpt16 knock-down results in 16- to 25-fold VSG ES derepression. Using chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP), TbSpt16 was found to be particularly enriched at the promoter region of silent but not active VSG ESs in bloodstream form T. brucei. The chromatin remodeler FACT is therefore implicated in maintenance of repressed chromatin present at silent VSG ES promoters, but is also essential for chromosome segregation presumably through maintenance of functional centromeres.
Project description:Trypanosoma brucei expresses variant surface glycoprotein (VSG) genes in a strictly monoallelic fashion in its mammalian hosts, but it is unclear how this important virulence mechanism is enforced. Telomere position effect, an epigenetic phenomenon, has been proposed to play a critical role in VSG regulation, yet no telomeric protein has been identified whose disruption led to VSG derepression. We now identify tbRAP1 as an intrinsic component of the T. brucei telomere complex and a major regulator for silencing VSG expression sites (ESs). Knockdown of tbRAP1 led to derepression of all VSGs in silent ESs, but not VSGs located elsewhere, and resulted in stronger derepression of genes located within 10 kb from telomeres than genes located further upstream. This graduated silencing pattern suggests that telomere integrity plays a key role in tbRAP1-dependent silencing and VSG regulation.
Project description:Trypanosoma brucei mono-allelically expresses one of approximately 1500 variant surface glycoprotein (VSG) genes while multiplying in the mammalian bloodstream. The active VSG is transcribed by RNA polymerase I in one of approximately 15 telomeric VSG expression sites (ESs). T. brucei is unusual in controlling gene expression predominantly post-transcriptionally, and how ESs are mono-allelically controlled remains a mystery. Here we identify a novel transcription regulator, which resembles a nucleoplasmin-like protein (NLP) with an AT-hook motif. NLP is key for ES control in bloodstream form T. brucei, as NLP knockdown results in 45- to 65-fold derepression of the silent VSG221 ES. NLP is also involved in repression of transcription in the inactive VSG Basic Copy arrays, minichromosomes and procyclin loci. NLP is shown to be enriched on the 177- and 50-bp simple sequence repeats, the non-transcribed regions around rDNA and procyclin, and both active and silent ESs. Blocking NLP synthesis leads to downregulation of the active ES, indicating that NLP plays a role in regulating appropriate levels of transcription of ESs in both their active and silent state. Discovery of the unusual transcription regulator NLP provides new insight into the factors that are critical for ES control.
Project description:To evade the host immune system, several pathogens periodically change their cell-surface epitopes. In the African trypanosomes, antigenic variation is achieved by tightly regulating the expression of a multigene family encoding a large repertoire of variant surface glycoproteins (VSGs). Immune evasion relies on two important features: exposing a single type of VSG at the cell surface and periodically and very rapidly switching the expressed VSG. Transcriptional switching between resident telomeric VSG genes does not involve DNA rearrangements, and regulation is probably epigenetic. The histone methyltransferase DOT1B is a nonessential protein that trimethylates lysine 76 of histone H3 in Trypanosoma brucei. Here we report that transcriptionally silent telomeric VSGs become partially derepressed when DOT1B is deleted, whereas nontelomeric loci are unaffected. DOT1B also is involved in the kinetics of VSG switching: in DeltaDOT1B cells, the transcriptional switch is so slow that cells expressing two VSGs persist for several weeks, indicating that monoallelic transcription is compromised. We conclude that DOT1B is required to maintain strict VSG silencing and to ensure rapid transcriptional VSG switching, demonstrating that epigenetics plays an important role in regulating antigenic variation in T. brucei.
Project description:Trypanosoma brucei causes human African trypanosomiasis and regularly switches its major surface antigen, VSG, thereby evading the host's immune response. VSGs are monoallelically expressed from subtelomeric expression sites (ESs), and VSG switching exploits subtelomere plasticity. However, subtelomere integrity is essential for T. brucei viability. The telomeric transcript, TERRA, was detected in T. brucei previously. We now show that the active ES-adjacent telomere is transcribed. We find that TbRAP1, a telomere protein essential for VSG silencing, suppresses VSG gene conversion-mediated switching. Importantly, TbRAP1 depletion increases the TERRA level, which appears to result from longer read-through into the telomere downstream of the active ES. Depletion of TbRAP1 also results in more telomeric RNA:DNA hybrids and more double strand breaks (DSBs) at telomeres and subtelomeres. In TbRAP1-depleted cells, expression of excessive TbRNaseH1, which cleaves the RNA strand of the RNA:DNA hybrid, brought telomeric RNA:DNA hybrids, telomeric/subtelomeric DSBs and VSG switching frequency back to WT levels. Therefore, TbRAP1-regulated appropriate levels of TERRA and telomeric RNA:DNA hybrid are fundamental to subtelomere/telomere integrity. Our study revealed for the first time an important role of a long, non-coding RNA in antigenic variation and demonstrated a link between telomeric silencing and subtelomere/telomere integrity through TbRAP1-regulated telomere transcription.
Project description:Antigenic variation in African trypanosomes involves monoallelic expression and reversible silencing of variant surface glycoprotein (VSG) genes found adjacent to telomeres in polycistronic expression sites (ESs). We assessed the impact on ES silencing of five candidate essential chromatin-associated factors that emerged from a genome-wide RNA interference viability screen. Using this approach, we demonstrate roles in VSG ES silencing for two histone chaperones. Defects in S-phase progression in cells depleted for histone H3, or either chaperone, highlight in particular the link between chromatin assembly and DNA replication control. S-phase checkpoint arrest was incomplete, however, allowing G2/M-specific VSG ES derepression following knockdown of histone H3. In striking contrast, knockdown of anti-silencing factor 1A (ASF1A) allowed for derepression at all cell cycle stages, whereas knockdown of chromatin assembly factor 1b (CAF-1b) revealed derepression predominantly in S-phase and G2/M. Our results support a central role for chromatin in maintaining VSG ES silencing. ASF1A and CAF-1b appear to play constitutive and DNA replication-dependent roles, respectively, in the recycling and assembly of chromatin. Defects in these functions typically lead to arrest in S-phase but defective cells can also progress through the cell cycle leading to nucleosome depletion and derepression of telomeric VSG ESs.