Trypanosomes undergo extensive developmental changes during their complex life cycle. Crucial among these is the transition between slender and stumpy bloodstream forms and, thereafter, the differentiation from stumpy to tsetse-midgut procyclic forms. These developmental events are highly regulated, temporally reproducible and accompanied by expression changes mediated almost exclusively at the post-transcriptional level.
In this study we have examined, by whole-genome microarray analysis, the mRNA abundance of genes in slender and stumpy forms of T.brucei AnTat1.1 cells, and also during their synchronous differentiation to procyclic forms. In total, five biological replicates representing the differentiation of matched parasite populations derived from five individual mouse infections were assayed, with RNAs being derived at key biological time points during the time course of their synchronous differentiation to procyclic forms. Importantly, the biological context of these mRNA profiles was established by assaying the coincident cellular events in each population (surface antigen exchange, morphological restructuring, cell cycle re-entry), thereby linking the observed gene expression changes to the well-established framework of trypanosome differentiation.
Using stringent statistical analysis and validation of the derived profiles against experimentally-predicted gene expression and phenotypic changes, we have established the profile of regulated gene expression during these important life-cycle transitions. The highly synchronous nature of differentiation between stumpy and procyclic forms also means that these studies of mRNA profiles are directly relevant to the changes in mRNA abundance within individual cells during this well-characterised developmental transition.