Bidirectional intraflagellar transport (IFT) consists of two major protein complexes, IFT-A and IFT-B. In contrast to the IFT-B complex, all components of IFT-A have recently been linked to human ciliopathies when defective. We therefore hypothesised that mutations in additional IFT-B encoding genes can be found in patients with multisystemic ciliopathies.
We screened 1628 individuals with reno-ocular ciliopathies by targeted next-generation sequencing of ciliary candidate genes, including all IFT-B encoding genes.
Consequently, we identified a homozygous mutation in IFT81 affecting an obligatory donor splice site in an individual with nephronophthisis and polydactyly. Further, we detected a loss-of-stop mutation with extension of the deduced protein by 10 amino acids in an individual with neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis-1. This proband presented with retinal dystrophy and brain lesions including cerebellar atrophy, a phenotype to which the IFT81 variant might contribute. Cultured fibroblasts of this latter affected individual showed a significant decrease in ciliated cell abundance compared with controls and increased expression of the transcription factor GLI2 suggesting deranged sonic hedgehog signalling.
This work describes identification of mutations of IFT81 in individuals with symptoms consistent with the clinical spectrum of ciliopathies. It might represent the rare case of a core IFT-B complex protein found associated with human disease. Our data further suggest that defects in the IFT-B core are an exceedingly rare finding, probably due to its indispensable role for ciliary assembly in development.
Genetics; Molecular genetics; Ophthalmology; Renal Medicine
The observation that the membranes of flagella are enriched in sterols and sphingolipids has led to the hypothesis that flagella might be enriched in raft-forming lipids. However, a detailed lipidomic analysis of flagellar membranes is not available. Novel protocols to detach and isolate intact flagella from Trypanosoma brucei procyclic forms in combination with reverse-phase liquid chromatography high-resolution tandem mass spectrometry allowed us to determine the phospholipid composition of flagellar membranes relative to whole cells. Our analyses revealed that phosphatidylethanolamine, phosphatidylserine, ceramide and the sphingolipids inositol phosphorylceramide and sphingomyelin are enriched in flagella relative to whole cells. In contrast, phosphatidylcholine and phosphatidylinositol are strongly depleted in flagella. Within individual glycerophospholipid classes, we observed a preference for ether-type over diacyl-type molecular species in membranes of flagella. Our study provides direct evidence for a preferential presence of raft-forming phospholipids in flagellar membranes of T. brucei.
Flagella; Lipid rafts; Membrane lipids; Mass spectrometry; Sphingolipids; Trypanosoma brucei
African trypanosomes are flagellated parasites that cause sleeping sickness. Parasites are transmitted from one mammalian host to another by the bite of a tsetse fly. Trypanosoma brucei possesses three different genes for arginine kinase (AK) including one (AK3) that encodes a protein localised to the flagellum. AK3 is characterised by the presence of a unique amino-terminal insertion that specifies flagellar targeting. We show here a phylogenetic analysis revealing that flagellar AK arose in two independent duplication events in T. brucei and T. congolense, the two species of African trypanosomes that infect the tsetse midgut. In T. brucei, AK3 is detected in all stages of parasite development in the fly (in the midgut and in the salivary glands) as well as in bloodstream cells, but with predominance at insect stages. Genetic knockout leads to a slight reduction in motility and impairs parasite infectivity towards tsetse flies in single and competition experiments, both phenotypes being reverted upon expression of an epitope-tagged version of AK3. We speculate that this flagellar arginine kinase is important for T. brucei infection of tsetse, especially in the context of mixed infections and that its flagellar targeting relies on a system equivalent to that discovered for calflagins, a family of trypanosome flagellum calcium binding proteins.
The Cilia 2014 conference was organised by four European networks: the Ciliopathy Alliance, the Groupement de Recherche CIL, the Nordic Cilia and Centrosome Network and the EU FP7 programme SYSCILIA. More than 400 delegates from 27 countries gathered at the Institut Pasteur conference centre in Paris, including 30 patients and patient representatives. The meeting offered a unique opportunity for exchange between different scientific and medical communities. Major highlights included new discoveries about the roles of motile and immotile cilia during development and homeostasis, the mechanism of cilium construction, as well as progress in diagnosis and possible treatment of ciliopathies. The contributions to the cilia field of flagellated infectious eukaryotes and of systems biology were also presented.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13630-015-0014-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Cilia; Flagella; Basal bodies; Centrioles; Ciliopathies; Intraflagellar; Transport; Signalling; Hedgehog; Development
Intraflagellar transport (IFT) of ciliary precursors such as tubulin from the cytoplasm to the ciliary tip is involved in the construction of the cilium, a hairlike organelle found on most eukaryotic cells. However, the molecular mechanisms of IFT are poorly understood. Here, we found that the two core IFT proteins IFT74 and IFT81 form a tubulin-binding module and mapped the interaction to a calponin homology domain of IFT81 and a highly basic domain in IFT74. Knockdown of IFT81 and rescue experiments with point mutants showed that tubulin binding by IFT81 was required for ciliogenesis in human cells.
Trypanosomes are protozoan parasites that cause diseases in humans and livestock for which no vaccines are available. Disease eradication requires sensitive diagnostic tools and efficient treatment strategies. Immunodiagnostics based on antigen detection are preferable to antibody detection because the latter cannot differentiate between active infection and cure. Classical monoclonal antibodies are inaccessible to cryptic epitopes (based on their size-150 kDa), costly to produce and require cold chain maintenance, a condition that is difficult to achieve in trypanosomiasis endemic regions, which are mostly rural. Nanobodies are recombinant, heat-stable, small-sized (15 kDa), antigen-specific, single-domain, variable fragments derived from heavy chain-only antibodies in camelids. Because of numerous advantages over classical antibodies, we investigated the use of nanobodies for the targeting of trypanosome-specific antigens and diagnostic potential. An alpaca was immunized using lysates of Trypanosoma evansi. Using phage display and bio-panning techniques, a cross-reactive nanobody (Nb392) targeting all trypanosome species and isolates tested was selected. Imunoblotting, immunofluorescence microscopy, immunoprecipitation and mass spectrometry assays were combined to identify the target recognized. Nb392 targets paraflagellar rod protein (PFR1) of T. evansi, T. brucei, T. congolense and T. vivax. Two different RNAi mutants with defective PFR assembly (PFR2RNAi and KIF9BRNAi) were used to confirm its specificity. In conclusion, using a complex protein mixture for alpaca immunization, we generated a highly specific nanobody (Nb392) that targets a conserved trypanosome protein, i.e., PFR1 in the flagella of trypanosomes. Nb392 is an excellent marker for the PFR and can be useful in the diagnosis of trypanosomiasis. In addition, as demonstrated, Nb392 can be a useful research or PFR protein isolation tool.
Cilia and flagella are assembled by intraflagellar transport (IFT). The protist Trypanosoma brucei is used to investigate retrograde IFT. A model is proposed by which the IFT dynein particle is assembled in the cytoplasm, transferred to the base of the flagellum, and associated with the IFT machinery in a manner dependent on the IFT-A complex.
Cilia and flagella are assembled by intraflagellar transport (IFT) of protein complexes that bring tubulin and other precursors to the incorporation site at their distal tip. Anterograde transport is driven by kinesin, whereas retrograde transport is ensured by a specific dynein. In the protist Trypanosoma brucei, two distinct genes encode fairly different dynein heavy chains (DHCs; ∼40% identity) termed DHC2.1 and DHC2.2, which form a heterodimer and are both essential for retrograde IFT. The stability of each heavy chain relies on the presence of a dynein light intermediate chain (DLI1; also known as XBX-1/D1bLIC). The presence of both heavy chains and of DLI1 at the base of the flagellum depends on the intermediate dynein chain DIC5 (FAP133/WDR34). In the IFT140RNAi mutant, an IFT-A protein essential for retrograde transport, the IFT dynein components are found at high concentration at the flagellar base but fail to penetrate the flagellar compartment. We propose a model by which the IFT dynein particle is assembled in the cytoplasm, reaches the base of the flagellum, and associates with the IFT machinery in a manner dependent on the IFT-A complex.
The construction of cilia and flagella depends on intraflagellar transport (IFT), the bidirectional movement of two protein complexes (IFT-A and IFT-B) driven by specific kinesin and dynein motors. IFT-B and kinesin are associated to anterograde transport whereas IFT-A and dynein participate to retrograde transport. Surprisingly, the small GTPase IFT27, a member of the IFT-B complex, turns out to be essential for retrograde cargo transport in Trypanosoma brucei. We reveal that this is due to failure to import both the IFT-A complex and the IFT dynein into the flagellar compartment. To get further molecular insight about the role of IFT27, GDP- or GTP-locked versions were expressed in presence or absence of endogenous IFT27. The GDP-locked version is unable to enter the flagellum and to interact with other IFT-B proteins and its sole expression prevents flagellum formation. These findings demonstrate that a GTPase-competent IFT27 is required for association to the IFT complex and that IFT27 plays a role in the cargo loading of the retrograde transport machinery.
Long, thin structures called cilia and flagella are found on the surface of many cells, and perform a range of roles, including propelling the cells around or sensing changes in the surrounding environment. A process called intraflagellar transport (IFT for short) is responsible for flagellum construction in eukaryotic cells. Protein complexes called IFT trains carry the building blocks that make up flagella along microtubule ‘tracks’ between the base and the tip of a flagellum.
IFT trains are made from two different protein complexes called IFT-A and IFT-B, which are dragged by various molecular motors. The IFT-B complex is necessary for the train to move towards the tip of the flagellum, and so enables the flagellum to grow. The IFT-A protein complex is required to recycle the train back towards the base of the flagellum.
Huet et al. examined the role that a protein called IFT27 plays in intraflagellar transport. IFT27 is part of the IFT-B complex, and so it was thought to only affect how flagella grow. However, short flagella still grow when IFT27 is absent, but they are filled with IFT trains that are not able to reverse back from the tip. Huet et al. reveal that the IFT-A complex and the molecular motor that is essential for reversing the train are not transported into the flagellum if IFT27 is not present. This is therefore an unusual case of an IFT-B protein affecting the IFT-A complex and the transport back to the base.
IFT27 also affects how the IFT-B complex forms. ITF27 can bind to some small molecules, which can switch the protein ‘on’ or ‘off’. Huet et al. found that when IFT27 is switched off it is not transported into flagella, and also cannot bind to some of the other proteins in the IFT-B complex. This means that if IFT27 is locked in an inactive state, the IFT-B complex does not form, and a flagellum cannot grow. Therefore, activated IFT27 is needed for putting together the IFT train and to ensure its movement in either direction along the microtubule tracks.
Trypanosoma brucei; flagellum; small GTPase; IFT; other
New details are revealed about the system that transports proteins to the tip of flagella during growth.
chlamydomonas; flagella; dynein; axoneme; flagellar growth; zebrafish
Cilia and flagella perform diverse roles in motility and sensory perception, and defects in their construction or their function are responsible for human genetic diseases termed ciliopathies. Cilia and flagella construction relies on intraflagellar transport (IFT), the bi-directional movement of ‘trains’ composed of protein complexes found between axoneme microtubules and the flagellum membrane. Although extensive information about IFT components and their mode of action were discovered in the green algae Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, other model organisms have revealed further insights about IFT. This is the case of Trypanosoma brucei, a flagellated protist responsible for sleeping sickness that is turning out to be an emerging model for studying IFT. In this article, we review different aspects of IFT, based on studies of Chlamydomonas and Trypanosoma. Data available from both models are examined to ask challenging questions about IFT such as the initiation of flagellum construction, the setting-up of IFT and the mode of formation of IFT trains, and their remodeling at the tip as well as their recycling at the base. Another outstanding question is the individual role played by the multiple IFT proteins. The use of different models, bringing their specific biological and experimental advantages, will be invaluable in order to obtain a global understanding of IFT.
The protozoan parasite Leishmania donovani undergoes several developmental transitions in its insect and vertebrate hosts that are induced by environmental changes. The roles of protein kinases in these adaptive differentiation steps and their potential as targets for antiparasitic intervention are only poorly characterized. Here, we used the generic protein kinase inhibitor staurosporine to gain insight into how interference with phosphotransferase activities affects the viability, growth, and motility of L. donovani promastigotes in vitro. Unlike the nonkinase drugs miltefosine and amphotericin B, staurosporine strongly reduced parasite biosynthetic activity and had a cytostatic rather than a cytotoxic effect. Despite the induction of a number of classical apoptotic markers, including caspase-like activity and surface binding of annexin V, we determined that, on the basis of cellular integrity, staurosporine did not cause cell death but caused cell cycle arrest and abrogated parasite motility. In contrast, targeted inhibition of the parasite casein kinase 1 (CK1) protein family by use of the CK1-specific inhibitor D4476 resulted in cell death. Thus, pleiotropic inhibition of L. donovani protein kinases and possibly other ATP-binding proteins by staurosporine dissociates apoptotic marker expression from cell death, which underscores the relevance of specific rather than broad kinase inhibitors for antiparasitic drug development.
FKBP12 proteins are able to inhibit TOR kinases or calcineurin phosphatases upon binding of rapamycin or FK506 drugs, respectively. The Trypanosoma brucei FKBP12 homologue (TbFKBP12) was found to be a cytoskeleton-associated protein with specific localization in the flagellar pocket area of the bloodstream form. In the insect procyclic form, RNA interference-mediated knockdown of TbFKBP12 affected motility. In bloodstream cells, depletion of TbFKBP12 affected cytokinesis and cytoskeleton architecture. These last effects were associated with the presence of internal translucent cavities limited by an inside-out configuration of the normal cell surface, with a luminal variant surface glycoprotein coat lined up by microtubules. These cavities, which recreated the streamlined shape of the normal trypanosome cytoskeleton, might represent unsuccessful attempts for cell abscission. We propose that TbFKBP12 differentially affects stage-specific processes through association with the cytoskeleton.
T. brucei, the causative parasite for African trypanosomiasis, faces an interesting dilemma in its life cycle. It has to successfully complete its infection cycle in the tsetse vector to be able to infect other vertebrate hosts. T. brucei has to undergo multiple morphological changes as it invades the alimentary canal of the tsetse to finally achieve infectivity in the salivary glands. In this review, we attempt to elucidate how these morphological changes are possible for a parasite that has evolved a highly robust cell structure to survive the chemically and physically diverse environments it finds itself in. To achieve this, we juxtaposed the experimental evidence that has been collected from T. brucei forms that are cultured in vitro with the observations that have been carried out on tsetse-infective forms in vivo. Although the accumulated knowledge on T. brucei biology is by no means trivial, several outstanding questions remain for how the parasite mechanistically changes its morphology as it traverses the tsetse and how those changes are triggered. However, we conclude that with recent breakthroughs allowing for the replication of the tsetse-infection process of T. brucei in vitro, these outstanding questions can finally be addressed.
trypanosome; tsetse; life cycle; cytoskeleton; morphological changes; stage-specific regulation
NUP1, the first example of a nuclear lamin analog in nonmetazoans, performs roles similar to those of lamins in maintaining the structure and organization of the nucleus in Trypanosoma brucei.
A unifying feature of eukaryotic nuclear organization is genome segregation into transcriptionally active euchromatin and transcriptionally repressed heterochromatin. In metazoa, lamin proteins preserve nuclear integrity and higher order heterochromatin organization at the nuclear periphery, but no non-metazoan lamin orthologues have been identified, despite the likely presence of nucleoskeletal elements in many lineages. This suggests a metazoan-specific origin for lamins, and therefore that distinct protein elements must compose the nucleoskeleton in other lineages. The trypanosomatids are highly divergent organisms and possess well-documented but remarkably distinct mechanisms for control of gene expression, including polycistronic transcription and trans-splicing. NUP-1 is a large protein localizing to the nuclear periphery of Trypanosoma brucei and a candidate nucleoskeletal component. We sought to determine if NUP-1 mediates heterochromatin organization and gene regulation at the nuclear periphery by examining the influence of NUP-1 knockdown on morphology, chromatin positioning, and transcription. We demonstrate that NUP-1 is essential and part of a stable network at the inner face of the trypanosome nuclear envelope, since knockdown cells have abnormally shaped nuclei with compromised structural integrity. NUP-1 knockdown also disrupts organization of nuclear pore complexes and chromosomes. Most significantly, we find that NUP-1 is required to maintain the silenced state of developmentally regulated genes at the nuclear periphery; NUP-1 knockdown results in highly specific mis-regulation of telomere-proximal silenced variant surface glycoprotein (VSG) expression sites and procyclin loci, indicating a disruption to normal chromatin organization essential to life-cycle progression. Further, NUP-1 depletion leads to increased VSG switching and therefore appears to have a role in control of antigenic variation. Thus, analogous to vertebrate lamins, NUP-1 is a major component of the nucleoskeleton with key roles in organization of the nuclear periphery, heterochromatin, and epigenetic control of developmentally regulated loci.
Eukaryotes—fungi, plants, animals, and many unicellular organisms—are defined by the presence of a cell nucleus that contains the chromosomes and is enveloped by a lipid membrane lined on the inner face with a protein network called the lamina. Among other functions, the lamina serves as an anchorage site for the ends of chromosomes. In multicellular animals (metazoa), the lamina comprises a few related proteins called lamins, which are very important for many functions related to the nucleus; abnormal lamins result in multiple nuclear defects and diseases, including inappropriate gene expression and premature aging. Until now, however, lamins had been found only in metazoa; no protein of equivalent function had been identified in plants, fungi, or unicellular organisms. Here, we describe a protein from African trypanosomes—the single-cell parasites that cause sleeping sickness—that fulfils many lamin-like roles, including maintaining nuclear structure and organizing the chromosomes of this organism. We show that this protein, which we call NUP-1 for nuclear periphery protein-1, is vital for the antigenic variation mechanisms that allow the parasite to escape the host immune response. We propose that NUP-1 is a lamin analogue that performs similar functions in trypanosomes to those of authentic lamins in metazoa. These findings, we believe, have important implications for understanding the evolution of the nucleus.
The protozoan parasite Trypanosoma brucei is responsible for sleeping sickness and alternates between mammal and tsetse fly hosts. Two proteins of the ALBA family associate to mRNA in cytoplasmic granules during starvation stress, are stage regulated, and contribute to trypanosome development in the tsetse fly.
The protozoan parasite Trypanosoma brucei is responsible for sleeping sickness and alternates between mammal and tsetse fly hosts, where it has to adapt to different environments. We investigated the role of two members of the ALBA family, which encodes hypothetical RNA-binding proteins conserved in most eukaryotes. We show that ALBA3/4 proteins colocalize with the DHH1 RNA-binding protein and with a subset of poly(A+) RNA in stress granules upon starvation. Depletion of ALBA3/4 proteins by RNA interference in the cultured procyclic stage produces cell modifications mimicking several morphogenetic aspects of trypanosome differentiation that usually take place in the fly midgut. A combination of immunofluorescence data and videomicroscopy analysis of live trypanosomes expressing endogenously ALBA fused with fluorescent proteins revealed that ALBA3/4 are present throughout the development of the parasite in the tsetse fly, with the striking exception of the transition stages found in the proventriculus region. This involves migration of the nucleus toward the posterior end of the cell, a phenomenon that is perturbed upon forced expression of ALBA3 during the differentiation process, showing for the first time the involvement of an RNA-binding protein in trypanosome development in vivo.
Cyclosporin A (CsA) has important anti-microbial activity against parasites of the genus Leishmania, suggesting CsA-binding cyclophilins (CyPs) as potential drug targets. However, no information is available on the genetic diversity of this important protein family, and the mechanisms underlying the cytotoxic effects of CsA on intracellular amastigotes are only poorly understood. Here, we performed a first genome-wide analysis of Leishmania CyPs and investigated the effects of CsA on host-free L. donovani amastigotes in order to elucidate the relevance of these parasite proteins for drug development.
Multiple sequence alignment and cluster analysis identified 17 Leishmania CyPs with significant sequence differences to human CyPs, but with highly conserved functional residues implicated in PPIase function and CsA binding. CsA treatment of promastigotes resulted in a dose-dependent inhibition of cell growth with an IC50 between 15 and 20 µM as demonstrated by proliferation assay and cell cycle analysis. Scanning electron microscopy revealed striking morphological changes in CsA treated promastigotes reminiscent to developing amastigotes, suggesting a role for parasite CyPs in Leishmania differentiation. In contrast to promastigotes, CsA was highly toxic to amastigotes with an IC50 between 5 and 10 µM, revealing for the first time a direct lethal effect of CsA on the pathogenic mammalian stage linked to parasite thermotolerance, independent from host CyPs. Structural modeling, enrichment of CsA-binding proteins from parasite extracts by FPLC, and PPIase activity assays revealed direct interaction of the inhibitor with LmaCyP40, a bifunctional cyclophilin with potential co-chaperone function.
The evolutionary expansion of the Leishmania CyP protein family and the toxicity of CsA on host-free amastigotes suggest important roles of PPIases in parasite biology and implicate Leishmania CyPs in key processes relevant for parasite proliferation and viability. The requirement of Leishmania CyP functions for intracellular parasite survival and their substantial divergence form host CyPs defines these proteins as prime drug targets.
Visceral leishmanisasis, also known as Kala Azar, is caused by the protozoan parasite Leishmania donovani. The L. donovani infectious cycle comprises two developmental stages, a motile promastigote stage that proliferates inside the digestive tract of the phlebotomine insect host, and a non-motile amastigote stage that differentiates inside the macrophages of mammalian hosts. Intracellular parasite survival in mouse and macrophage infection assays has been shown to be strongly compromised in the presence of the inhibitor cyclosporin A (CsA), which binds to members of the cyclophilin (CyP) protein family. It has been suggested that the toxic effects of CsA on amastigotes occurs indirectly via host cyclophilins, which may be required for intracellular parasite development and growth. Using a host-free L. donovani culture system we revealed for the first time a direct and stage-specific effect of CsA on promastigote growth and amastigote viability. We provided evidence that parasite killing occurs through a heat sensitivity mechanism likely due to direct inhibition of the co-chaperone cyclophilin 40. Our data allow important new insights into the function of the Leishmania CyP protein family in differentiation, growth, and intracellular survival, and define this class of molecules as important drug targets.
KIF9B localizes to the axoneme and basal body and is needed for flagella assembly, whereas KIF9A localizes only to the axoneme and controls flagella motility without affecting their structure.
Numerous eukaryote genome projects have uncovered a variety of kinesins of unknown function. The kinesin 9 family is limited to flagellated species. Our phylogenetic experiments revealed two subfamilies: KIF9A (including Chlamydomonas
reinhardtii KLP1) and KIF9B (including human KIF6). The function of KIF9A and KIF9B was investigated in the protist Trypanosoma brucei that possesses a single motile flagellum. KIF9A and KIF9B are strongly associated with the cytoskeleton and are required for motility. KIF9A is localized exclusively in the axoneme, and its depletion leads to altered motility without visible structural modifications. KIF9B is found in both the axoneme and the basal body, and is essential for the assembly of the paraflagellar rod (PFR), a large extra-axonemal structure. In the absence of KIF9B, cells grow abnormal flagella with excessively large blocks of PFR-like material that alternate with regions where only the axoneme is present. The functional diversity of the kinesin 9 family illustrates the capacity for adaptation of organisms to suit specific cytoskeletal requirements.
Intraflagellar transport (IFT) is the bidirectional movement of protein complexes required for cilia and flagella formation. We investigated IFT by analyzing nine conventional IFT genes and five novel putative IFT genes (PIFT) in Trypanosoma brucei that maintain its existing flagellum while assembling a new flagellum. Immunostaining against IFT172 or expression of tagged IFT20 or green fluorescent protein GFP::IFT52 revealed the presence of IFT proteins along the axoneme and at the basal body and probasal body regions of both old and new flagella. IFT particles were detected by electron microscopy and exhibited a strict localization to axonemal microtubules 3–4 and 7–8, suggesting the existence of specific IFT tracks. Rapid (>3 μm/s) bidirectional intraflagellar movement of GFP::IFT52 was observed in old and new flagella. RNA interference silencing demonstrated that all individual IFT and PIFT genes are essential for new flagellum construction but the old flagellum remained present. Inhibition of IFTB proteins completely blocked axoneme construction. Absence of IFTA proteins (IFT122 and IFT140) led to formation of short flagella filled with IFT172, indicative of defects in retrograde transport. Two PIFT proteins turned out to be required for retrograde transport and three for anterograde transport. Finally, flagellum membrane elongation continues despite the absence of axonemal microtubules in all IFT/PIFT mutant.
To perform their multiple functions, cilia and flagella are precisely positioned at the cell surface by mechanisms that remain poorly understood. The protist Trypanosoma brucei possesses a single flagellum that adheres to the cell body where a specific cytoskeletal structure is localised, the flagellum attachment zone (FAZ). Trypanosomes build a new flagellum whose distal tip is connected to the side of the old flagellum by a discrete structure, the flagella connector. During this process, the basal body of the new flagellum migrates towards the posterior end of the cell. We show that separate inhibition of flagellum assembly, base-to-tip motility or flagella connection leads to reduced basal body migration, demonstrating that the flagellum contributes to its own positioning. We propose a model where pressure applied by movements of the growing new flagellum on the flagella connector leads to a reacting force that in turn contributes to migration of the basal body at the proximal end of the flagellum.
In many eukaryotic cells, double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) triggers RNA interference (RNAi), the specific degradation of RNA of homologous sequence. RNAi is now a major tool for reverse-genetics projects, including large-scale high-throughput screens. Recent reports have questioned the specificity of RNAi, raising problems in interpretation of RNAi-based experiments.
Using the protozoan Trypanosoma brucei as a model, we designed a functional complementation assay to ascertain that phenotypic effect(s) observed upon RNAi were due to specific silencing of the targeted gene. This was applied to a cytoskeletal gene encoding the paraflagellar rod protein 2 (TbPFR2), whose product is essential for flagellar motility. We demonstrate the complementation of TbPFR2, silenced via dsRNA targeting its UTRs, through the expression of a tagged RNAi-resistant TbPFR2 encoding a protein that could be immunolocalized in the flagellum. Next, we performed a functional complementation of TbPFR2, silenced via dsRNA targeting its coding sequence, through heterologous expression of the TbPFR2 orthologue gene from Trypanosoma cruzi: the flagellum regained its motility.
This work shows that functional complementation experiments can be readily performed in order to ascertain that phenotypic effects observed upon RNAi experiments are indeed due to the specific silencing of the targetted gene. Further, the results described here are of particular interest when reverse genetics studies cannot be easily achieved in organisms not amenable to RNAi. In addition, our strategy should constitute a firm basis to elaborate functional-dissection studies of genes from other organisms.
RNA silencing processes are widespread in almost all eukaryotic organisms. They have various functions including genome protection, and the control of gene expression, development and heterochromatin formation. RNA interference (RNAi) is the post-transcriptional destruction of RNA, which is mediated by a ribonucleoprotein complex that contains, among several components, RNA helicases and Argonaute proteins. RNAi is functional in trypanosomes, protozoan parasites that separated very early from the main eukaryotic lineage and exhibit several intriguing features in terms of the control of gene expression. In this report, we investigated the functions of RNAi in Trypanosoma brucei.
By searching through genome databases, novel Argonaute-like proteins were identified in several protozoa that belong to the kinetoplastid order, a group of organisms that diverged early from the main eukaryotic lineage. T. brucei possesses two Argonaute-like genes termed TbAGO1 and TbPWI1. Dual transient transfection assays suggest that TbAGO1, but not TbPWI1, is involved in RNAi. The entire coding region of TbAGO1 was deleted by double gene knockout. TbAGO1-/- cells turned out to be completely resistant to RNAi generated either by transfected double-stranded RNA or by expression of an inverted repeat. TbAGO1-/- cells were viable but showed a dramatically reduced growth rate. This was probably due to defects in mitosis and abnormal chromosome segregation as revealed by in situ analysis. The RNAi and growth phenotypes were complemented by the inducible expression of a GFP::TbAGO1 fusion protein that revealed the cytoplasmic location of the protein.
The requirement of TbAGO1 for RNAi in trypanosomes demonstrates the evolutionary ancient involvement of Argonaute proteins in RNAi silencing processes. RNAi-deficient TbAGO1-/- cells showed numerous defects in chromosome segregation and mitotic spindle assembly. We propose a working hypothesis in which RNAi would be involved in heterochromatin formation at the centromere and therefore in chromosome segregation.
The paraflagellar rod (PFR) of the African trypanosome Trypanosoma brucei represents an excellent model to study flagellum assembly. The PFR is an intraflagellar structure present alongside the axoneme and is composed of two major proteins, PFRA and PFRC. By inducible expression of a functional epitope-tagged PFRA protein, we have been able to monitor PFR assembly in vivo. As T. brucei cells progress through their cell cycle, they possess both an old and a new flagellum. The induction of expression of tagged PFRA in trypanosomes growing a new flagellum provided an excellent marker of newly synthesized subunits. This procedure showed two different sites of addition: a major, polar site at the distal tip of the flagellum and a minor, nonpolar site along the length of the partially assembled PFR. Moreover, we have observed turnover of epitope-tagged PFRA in old flagella that takes place throughout the length of the PFR structure. Expression of truncated PFRA mutant proteins identified a sequence necessary for flagellum localization by import or binding. This sequence was not sufficient to confer full flagellum localization to a green fluorescent protein reporter. A second sequence, necessary for the addition of PFRA protein to the distal tip, was also identified. In the absence of this sequence, the mutant PFRA proteins were localized both in the cytosol and in the flagellum where they could still be added along the length of the PFR. This seven-amino-acid sequence is conserved in all PFRA and PFRC proteins and shows homology to a sequence in the flagellar dynein heavy chain of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii.