Ribosome biogenesis is an energy consuming and stringently controlled process that involves hundreds of trans-acting factors. Small nucleolar RNAs (snoRNAs), important components of ribosome biogenesis are non-coding guide RNAs involved in rRNA processing, nucleotide modifications like 2'-O-ribose methylation, pseudouridylation and possibly gene regulation. snoRNAs are ubiquitous and are diverse in their genomic organization, mechanism of transcription and process of maturation. In vertebrates, most snoRNAs are present in introns of protein coding genes and are processed by exonucleolytic cleavage, while in plants they are transcribed as polycistronic transcripts.
This is a comprehensive analysis of malaria parasite snoRNA genes and proteins that have a role in ribosomal biogenesis. Computational and experimental approaches have been used to identify several box C/D snoRNAs from different species of Plasmodium and confirm their expression. Our analyses reveal that the gene for endoribonuclease Rnt1 is absent from Plasmodium falciparum genome, which indicates the existence of alternative pre-rRNA processing pathways. The structural features of box C/D snoRNAs are highly conserved in Plasmodium genus; however, unlike other organisms most parasite snoRNAs are present in single copy. The genomic localization of parasite snoRNAs shows mixed patterns of those observed in plants, yeast and vertebrates. We have localized parasite snoRNAs in untranslated regions (UTR) of mRNAs, and this is an unprecedented and novel genetic feature. Akin to mammalian snoRNAs, those in Plasmodium may also behave as mobile genetic elements.
This study provides a comprehensive overview on trans-acting genes involved in ribosome biogenesis and also a genetic insight into malaria parasite snoRNA genes.