[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Reversible protein phosphorylation regulated by ki-nases and phosphatases controls many cellular pro-cesses. Although essential functions for the malaria parasite kinome have been reported, the roles of most protein phosphatases (PPs) during Plasmodium development are unknown. We report a functional analysis of the Plasmodium berghei protein phos-phatome, which exhibits high conservation with the P. falciparum phosphatome and comprises 30 pre-dicted PPs with differential and distinct expression patterns during various stages of the life cycle. Gene disruption analysis of P. berghei PPs reveals that half of the genes are likely essential for asexual blood stage development, whereas six are required for sexual development/sporogony in mosquitoes. Phenotypic screening coupled with transcriptome sequencing unveiled morphological changes and altered gene expression in deletion mutants of two N-myristoylated PPs. These findings provide system-atic functional analyses of PPs in Plasmodium, iden-tify how phosphatases regulate parasite development and differentiation, and can inform the identification of drug targets for malaria.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Trypanosoma brucei evades the adaptive immune response through the expression of antigenically distinct Variant Surface Glycoprotein (VSG) coats. To understand the progression and mechanisms of VSG switching, and to identify the VSGs expressed in populations of trypanosomes, it is desirable to predetermine the available repertoire of VSG genes (the 'VSGnome'). To date, the catalogue of VSG genes present in any strain is far from complete and the majority of current information regarding VSGs is derived from the TREU927 strain that is not commonly used as an experimental model. We have assembled, annotated and analyzed 2,563 distinct and previously unsequenced genes encoding complete and partial VSGs of the widely used Lister 427 strain of T. brucei. Around 80% of the VSGnome consists of incomplete genes or pseudogenes. Read-depth analysis demonstrated that most VSGs exist as single copies, but 360 exist as two or more indistinguishable copies. The assembled regions include five functional metacyclic VSG expression sites. One third of minichromosome sub-telomeres contain a VSG (64-67 VSGs on ∼96 minichromosomes), of which 85% appear to be functionally competent. The minichromosomal repertoire is very dynamic, differing among clones of the same strain. Few VSGs are unique along their entire length: frequent recombination events are likely to have shaped (and to continue to shape) the repertoire. In spite of their low sequence conservation and short window of expression, VSGs show evidence of purifying selection, with ∼40% of non-synonymous mutations being removed from the population. VSGs show a strong codon-usage bias that is distinct from that of any other group of trypanosome genes. VSG sequences are generally very divergent between Lister 427 and TREU927 strains of T. brucei, but those that are highly similar are not found in 'protected' genomic environments, but may reflect genetic exchange among populations.
Molecular and Biochemical Parasitology 06/2014; · 2.73 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Trypanosomes use a microtubule focused mechanism for cell morphogenesis and cytokinesis. We used scanning electron and video microscopy of living cells to provide the first detailed description of cell morphogenesis and cytokinesis in the early-branching eukaryote Trypanosoma brucei. We outline four distinct stages of cytokinesis and show that an asymmetric division fold bisects the two daughter cells, with a cytoplasmic bridge-like structure connecting the two daughters immediately prior to abscission. Using detection of tyrosinated α-tubulin as a marker for new or growing microtubules and expression of XMAP215, a plus end binding protein, as a marker for microtubule plus ends we demonstrate spatial asymmetry in the underlying microtubule cytoskeleton throughout the cell division cycle. This leads to inheritance of different microtubule cytoskeletal patterns and demonstrates the major role of microtubules in achieving cytokinesis. RNA interference techniques have led to a large set of mutants, often with variations in phenotype between procyclic and bloodstream life cycle forms. Here, we show morphogenetic differences between these two life cycle forms of this parasite during new flagellum growth and cytokinesis. These discoveries are important tools to explain differences between bloodstream and procyclic form RNAi phenotypes involving organelle mis-positioning during cell division and cytokinesis defects.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Abstract Eukaryogenesis, the origin of the eukaryotic cell, represents one of the fundamental evolutionary transitions in the history of life on earth. This event, which is estimated to have occurred over one billion years ago, remains rather poorly understood. While some well-validated examples of fossil microbial eukaryotes for this time frame have been described, these can provide only basic morphology and the molecular machinery present in these organisms has remained unknown. Complete and partial genomic information has begun to fill this gap, and is being used to trace proteins and cellular traits to their roots and to provide unprecedented levels of resolution of structures, metabolic pathways and capabilities of organisms at these earliest points within the eukaryotic lineage. This is essentially allowing a molecular paleontology. What has emerged from these studies is spectacular cellular complexity prior to expansion of the eukaryotic lineages. Multiple reconstructed cellular systems indicate a very sophisticated biology, which by implication arose following the initial eukaryogenesis event but prior to eukaryotic radiation and provides a challenge in terms of explaining how these early eukaryotes arose and in understanding how they lived. Here, we provide brief overviews of several cellular systems and the major emerging conclusions, together with predictions for subsequent directions in evolution leading to extant taxa. We also consider what these reconstructions suggest about the life styles and capabilities of these earliest eukaryotes and the period of evolution between the radiation of eukaryotes and the eukaryogenesis event itself.
Critical Reviews in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology 07/2013; 48(4):373-396. · 5.58 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: SAS-6 is required for centriole biogenesis in diverse eukaryotes. Here, we describe a novel family of SAS-6-like (SAS6L) proteins that share an N-terminal domain with SAS-6, but lack coiled-coil tails. SAS6L proteins are found in a subset of eukaryotes that contain SAS-6, including diverse protozoa and green algae. In the apicomplexan parasite Toxoplasma gondii SAS-6 localizes to the centriole, but SAS6L is found above the conoid, an enigmatic tubulin-containing structure found at the apex of a subset of alveolate organisms. Loss of SAS6L causes reduced fitness in Toxoplasma. The Trypanosoma brucei homolog of SAS6L localizes to the basal plate region, the site in the axoneme where the central pair microtubules are nucleated. When endogenous SAS6L is overexpressed in Toxoplasma tachyzoites or Trypanosoma trypomastigotes, it forms prominent filaments that extend through the cell cytoplasm, indicating that it retains a capacity to form higher-order structures despite lacking a coiled coil domain. We conclude that although SAS6L proteins share a conserved domain with SAS-6, they are a functionally distinct family that pre-dates the last common ancestor of eukaryotes. Moreover, the distinct localization of the SAS6L protein in Trypanosoma and Toxoplasma adds weight to the hypothesis that the conoid complex evolved from flagellar components.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The phylum Apicomplexa comprises over 5000 intracellular protozoan parasites, including Plasmodium and Toxoplasma, that are clinically important pathogens affecting humans and livestock. Malaria parasites belonging to the genus Plasmodium possess a pellicle comprised of a plasmalemma and inner membrane complex (IMC), which is implicated in parasite motility and invasion. Using live cell imaging and reverse genetics in the rodent malaria model P. berghei, we localise two unique IMC sub-compartment proteins (ISPs) and examine their role in defining apical polarity during zygote (ookinete) development. We show that these proteins localise to the anterior apical end of the parasite where IMC organisation is initiated, and are expressed at all developmental stages, especially those that are invasive. Both ISP proteins are N-myristoylated, phosphorylated and membrane-bound. Gene disruption studies suggest that ISP1 is likely essential for parasite development, whereas ISP3 is not. However, an absence of ISP3 alters the apical localisation of ISP1 in all invasive stages including ookinetes and sporozoites, suggesting a coordinated function for these proteins in the organisation of apical polarity in the parasite.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Protein phosphorylation and dephosphorylation (catalysed by kinases and phosphatases, respectively) are post-translational modifications that play key roles in many eukaryotic signalling pathways, and are often deregulated in a number of pathological conditions in humans. In the malaria parasite Plasmodium, functional insights into its kinome have only recently been achieved, with over half being essential for blood stage development and another 14 kinases being essential for sexual development and mosquito transmission. However, functions for any of the plasmodial protein phosphatases are unknown. Here, we use reverse genetics in the rodent malaria model, Plasmodium berghei, to examine the role of a unique protein phosphatase containing kelch-like domains (termed PPKL) from a family related to Arabidopsis BSU1. Phylogenetic analysis confirmed that the family of BSU1-like proteins including PPKL is encoded in the genomes of land plants, green algae and alveolates, but not in other eukaryotic lineages. Furthermore, PPKL was observed in a distinct family, separate to the most closely-related phosphatase family, PP1. In our genetic approach, C-terminal GFP fusion with PPKL showed an active protein phosphatase preferentially expressed in female gametocytes and ookinetes. Deletion of the endogenous ppkl gene caused abnormal ookinete development and differentiation, and dissociated apical microtubules from the inner-membrane complex, generating an immotile phenotype and failure to invade the mosquito mid-gut epithelium. These observations were substantiated by changes in localisation of cytoskeletal tubulin and actin, and the micronemal protein CTRP in the knockout mutant as assessed by indirect immunofluorescence. Finally, increased mRNA expression of dozi, a RNA helicase vital to zygote development was observed in ppkl(-) mutants, with global phosphorylation studies of ookinete differentiation from 1.5-24 h post-fertilisation indicating major changes in the first hours of zygote development. Our work demonstrates a stage-specific essentiality of the unique PPKL enzyme, which modulates parasite differentiation, motility and transmission.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Eukaryotic cilia/flagella are ancient organelles with motility and sensory functions. Cilia display significant ultrastructural conservation where present across the eukaryotic phylogeny; however, diversity in ciliary biology exists and the ability to produce cilia has been lost independently on a number of occasions. Land plants provide an excellent system for the investigation of cilia evolution and loss across a broad phylogeny, because early divergent land plant lineages produce cilia, whereas most seed plants do not. This review highlights the differences in cilia form and function across land plants and discusses how recent advances in genomics are providing novel insights into the evolutionary trajectory of ciliary proteins. We propose a renewed effort to adopt ciliated land plants as models to investigate the mechanisms underpinning complex ciliary processes, such as number control, the coordination of basal body placement and the regulation of beat patterns.
New Phytologist 06/2012; 195(3):526-40. · 6.74 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: African trypanosomes are the only organisms known to use RNA polymerase I (pol I) to transcribe protein-coding genes. These genes include VSG, which is essential for immune evasion and is transcribed from an extranucleolar expression site body (ESB). Several trypanosome pol I subunits vary compared to their homologues elsewhere, and the question arises as to how these variations relate to pol I function. A clear example is the N-terminal extension found on the second-largest subunit of pol I, RPA2. Here, we identify an essential role for this region. RPA2 truncation leads to nuclear exclusion and a growth defect which phenocopies single-allele knockout. The N terminus is not a general nuclear localization signal (NLS), however, and it fails to accumulate unrelated proteins in the nucleus. An ectopic NLS is sufficient to reinstate nuclear localization of truncated RPA2, but it does not restore function. Moreover, NLS-tagged, truncated RPA2 has a different subnuclear distribution to full-length protein and is unable to build stable pol I complexes. We conclude that the RPA2 N-terminal extension does not have a role exclusive to the expression of protein-coding genes, but it is essential for all pol I functions in trypanosomes because it directs trypanosomatid-specific interactions with RPA1.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Expression of transgenes is central to forward and reverse genetic analysis in Trypanosoma brucei. The inducible expression of transgenes in trypanosomes is based on the tetracycline repressor binding to a tetracycline operator to prevent transcription in the absence of tetracycline. The same inducible system is used to produce double-stranded RNA for RNAi knockdown of target genes. This study describes a new plasmid pSPR2.1 that drives consistent high-level expression of tetracycline repressor in procyclic form trypanosomes. A complementary expression plasmid, p3227, was constructed. The major difference between this and current plasmids is the separation of the inducible transgene and selectable marker promoters by the plasmid backbone. The plasmid p3227 was able to support inducible expression in cell lines containing pSPR2.1 as well as the established Lister 427 29-13 cell line. p3666, a derivative of p3227, was made for inducible expression of stem loop RNAi constructs and was effective for knockdown of DRBD3, which had proved problematic using existing RNAi plasmids with head-to-head promoters. The plasmid system was also able to support inducible transgene expression and DRBD3 RNAi knockdown in bloodstream form cells expressing tetracycline repressor from an integrated copy of the plasmid pHD1313.
PLoS ONE 01/2012; 7(4):e35167. · 3.73 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Eukaryotic cilia are complex, highly conserved microtubule-based organelles with a broad phylogenetic distribution. Cilia were present in the last eukaryotic common ancestor and many proteins involved in cilia function have been conserved through eukaryotic diversification. However, cilia have also been lost multiple times in different lineages, with at least two losses occurring within the land plants. Whereas all non-seed plants produce cilia for motility of male gametes, some gymnosperms and all angiosperms lack cilia. During these evolutionary losses, proteins with ancestral ciliary functions may be lost or co-opted into different functions.
Here we identify a core set of proteins with an inferred ciliary function that are conserved in ciliated eukaryotic species. We interrogate this genomic dataset to identify proteins with a predicted ancestral ciliary role that have been maintained in non-ciliated land plants. In support of our prediction, we demonstrate that several of these proteins have a flagellar localisation in protozoan trypanosomes. The phylogenetic distribution of these genes within the land plants indicates evolutionary scenarios of either sub- or neo-functionalisation and expression data analysis shows that these genes are highly expressed in Arabidopsis thaliana pollen cells.
A large number of proteins possess a phylogenetic ciliary profile indicative of ciliary function. Remarkably, many genes with an ancestral ciliary role are maintained in non-ciliated land plants. These proteins have been co-opted to perform novel functions, most likely before the loss of cilia, some of which appear related to the formation of the male gametes.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The cytoskeleton is a system of intracellular filaments crucial for cell shape, division, and function in all three domains of life. The simple cytoskeletons of prokaryotes show surprising plasticity in composition, with none of the core filament-forming proteins conserved in all lineages. In contrast, eukaryotic cytoskeletal function has been hugely elaborated by the addition of accessory proteins and extensive gene duplication and specialization. Much of this complexity evolved before the last common ancestor of eukaryotes. The distribution of cytoskeletal filaments puts constraints on the likely prokaryotic line that made this leap of eukaryogenesis.
The Journal of Cell Biology 08/2011; 194(4):513-25. · 10.82 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The rapid increase in the availability of genome information has created considerable demand for both comparative and ab initio predictive bioinformatic analyses. The biology laid bare in the genomes of many organisms is often novel, presenting new challenges for bioinformatic interrogation. A paradigm for this is the collected genomes of the kinetoplastid parasites, a group which includes Trypanosoma brucei the causative agent of human African trypanosomiasis. These genomes, though outwardly simple in organisation and gene content, have historically challenged many theories for gene expression regulation in eukaryotes.
Here we utilise a Bayesian approach to identify local changes in nucleotide composition in the genome of T. brucei. We show that there are several elements which are found at the starts and ends of multicopy gene arrays and that there are compositional elements that are common to all intergenic regions. We also show that there is a composition-inversion element that occurs at the position of the trans-splice site.
The nature of the elements discovered reinforces the hypothesis that context dependant RNA secondary structure has an important influence on gene expression regulation in Trypanosoma brucei.
PLoS ONE 01/2011; 6(10):e25666. · 3.73 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Trypanosomes are a group of protozoan eukaryotes, many of which are major parasites of humans and livestock. The genomes of trypanosomes and their modes of gene expression differ in several important aspects from those of other eukaryotic model organisms. Protein-coding genes are organized in large directional gene clusters on a genome-wide scale, and their polycistronic transcription is not generally regulated at initiation. Transcripts from these polycistrons are processed by global trans-splicing of pre-mRNA. Furthermore, in African trypanosomes, some protein-coding genes are transcribed by a multifunctional RNA polymerase I from a specialized extranucleolar compartment. The primary DNA sequence of the trypanosome genomes and their cellular organization have usually been treated as separate entities. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that in order to understand how a genome functions in a living cell, we will need to unravel how the one-dimensional genomic sequence and its trans-acting factors are arranged in the three-dimensional space of the eukaryotic nucleus. Understanding this cell biology of the genome will be crucial if we are to elucidate the genetic control mechanisms of parasitism. Here, we integrate the concepts of nuclear architecture, deduced largely from studies of yeast and mammalian nuclei, with recent developments in our knowledge of the trypanosome genome, gene expression, and nuclear organization. We also compare this nuclear organization to those in other systems in order to shed light on the evolution of nuclear architecture in eukaryotes.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We have developed a machine-learning approach to identify 3537 discrete orthologue protein sequence groups distributed across all available archaeal genomes. We show that treating these orthologue groups as binary detection/non-detection data is sufficient to capture the majority of archaeal phylogeny. We subsequently use the sequence data from these groups to infer a method and substitution-model-independent phylogeny. By holding this phylogeny constrained and interrogating the intersection of this large dataset with both the Eukarya and the Bacteria using Bayesian and maximum-likelihood approaches, we propose and provide evidence for a methanogenic origin of the Archaea. By the same criteria, we also provide evidence in support of an origin for Eukarya either within or as sisters to the Thaumarchaea.
Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 09/2010; 278(1708):1009-18. · 5.68 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Centrioles are highly conserved structures that fulfil important cellular functions, such as nucleation of cilia and flagella (basal-body function) and organisation of pericentriolar material to form the centrosome. The evolution of these functions can be inferred from the distribution of the molecular components of extant centrioles and centrosomes. Here, we undertake an evolutionary analysis of 53 proteins known either for centriolar association or for involvement in cilia-associated pathologies. By linking protein distribution in 45 diverse eukaryotes with organism biology, we provide molecular evidence to show that basal-body function is ancestral, whereas the presence of the centrosome is specific to the Holozoa. We define an ancestral centriolar inventory of 14 core proteins, Polo-like-kinase, and proteins associated with Bardet-Biedl syndrome (BBS) and Meckel-Gruber syndrome. We show that the BBSome is absent from organisms that produce cilia only for motility, predicting a dominant and ancient role for this complex in sensory function. We also show that the unusual centriole of Caenorhabditis elegans is highly divergent in both protein composition and sequence. Finally, we demonstrate a correlation between the presence of specific centriolar proteins and eye evolution. This correlation is used to predict proteins with functions in the development of ciliary, but not rhabdomeric, eyes.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The genesis of the eukaryotes was a pivotal event in evolution and was accompanied by the acquisition of numerous new cellular features including compartmentalization by cytoplasmic organelles, mitosis and meiosis, and ciliary motility. Essential for the development of these features was the tubulin cytoskeleton and associated motors. It is therefore possible to map ancient cell evolution by reconstructing the evolutionary history of motor proteins. Here, we have used the kinesin motor repertoire of 45 extant eukaryotes to infer the ancestral state of this superfamily in the last common eukaryotic ancestor (LCEA).
We bioinformatically identified 1624 putative kinesin proteins, determined their protein domain architectures and calculated a comprehensive Bayesian phylogeny for the kinesin superfamily with statistical support. These data enabled us to define 51 anciently-derived kinesin paralogs (including three new kinesin families) and 105 domain architectures. We then mapped these characters across eukaryotes, accounting for secondary loss within established eukaryotic groupings, and alternative tree topologies.
We show that a minimum of 11 kinesin families and 3 protein domain architectures were present in the LCEA. This demonstrates that the microtubule-based cytoskeleton of the LCEA was surprisingly highly developed in terms of kinesin motor types, but that domain architectures have been extensively modified during the diversification of the eukaryotes. Our analysis provides molecular evidence for the existence of several key cellular functions in the LCEA, and shows that a large proportion of motor family diversity and cellular complexity had already arisen in this ancient cell.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Kinesin-13 proteins have a critical role in animal cell mitosis, during which they regulate spindle microtubule dynamics through their depolymerisation activity. Much of what is known about Kinesin-13 function emanates from a relatively small sub-family of proteins containing MCAK and Kif2A/B. However, recent work on kinesins from the much more widely distributed, ancestral Kinesin-13 family, which includes human Kif24, have identified a second function in flagellum length regulation that may exist either alongside or instead of the mitotic role.
The African trypanosome Trypanosoma brucei encodes 7 distinct Kinesin-13 proteins, allowing scope for extensive specialisation of roles. Here, we show that of all the trypanosomal Kinesin-13 proteins, only one is nuclear. This protein, TbKIN13-1, is present in the nucleoplasm throughout the cell cycle, but associates with the spindle during mitosis, which in trypanosomes is closed. TbKIN13-1 is necessary for the segregation of both large and mini-chromosomes in this organism and reduction in TbKIN13-1 levels mediated by RNA interference causes deflects in spindle disassembly with spindle-like structures persisting in non-mitotic cells. A second Kinesin-13 is localised to the flagellum tip, but the majority of the Kinesin-13 family members are in neither of these cellular locations.
These data show that the expanded Kinesin-13 repertoire of trypanosomes is not associated with diversification of spindle-associated roles. TbKIN13-1 is required for correct spindle function, but the extra-nuclear localisation of the remaining paralogues suggests that the biological roles of the Kinesin-13 family is wider than previously thought.
PLoS ONE 01/2010; 5(11):e15020. · 3.73 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The transcription machineries of Archaea and eukaryotes are similar in many aspects, but little is understood about archaeal chromatin and its role in transcription. Here, we describe the identification in hyperthermophilic Crenarchaeota and a Korarchaeon of an orthologue of the eukaryotic transcription elongation factor Elf1, which has been shown to function in chromatin structure maintenance of actively transcribed templates. Our discovery has implications for the relationship of chromatin and transcription in Archaea and the evolution of these processes in eukaryotes.
Biology Direct 08/2009; 4:24. · 2.72 Impact Factor