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1.  Novel Core Promoter Elements and a Cognate Transcription Factor in the Divergent Unicellular Eukaryote Trichomonas vaginalis▿ 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2011;31(7):1444-1458.
A highly conserved DNA initiator (Inr) element has been the only core promoter element described in the divergent unicellular eukaryote Trichomonas vaginalis, although genome analyses reveal that only ∼75% of protein-coding genes appear to contain an Inr. In search of another core promoter element(s), a nonredundant database containing 5′ untranslated regions of expressed T. vaginalis genes was searched for overrepresented DNA motifs and known eukaryotic core promoter elements. In addition to identifying the Inr, two elements that lack sequence similarity to the known protein-coding gene core promoter, motif 3 (M3) and motif 5 (M5), were identified. Mutational and functional analyses demonstrate that both are novel core promoter elements. M3 [(A/G/T)(A/G)C(G/C)G(T/C)T(T/A/G)] resembles a Myb recognition element (MRE) and is bound specifically by a unique protein with a Myb-like DNA binding domain. The M5 element (CCTTT) overlaps the transcription start site and replaces the Inr as an alternative, gene-specific initiator element. Transcription specifically initiates at the second cytosine within M5, in contrast to characteristic initiation by RNA polymerase II at an adenosine. In promoters that combine M3 with either M5 or Inr, transcription initiation is regulated by the M3 motif.
PMCID: PMC3135286  PMID: 21245378
2.  A Metazoan/Plant-like Capping Enzyme and Cap Modified Nucleotides in the Unicellular Eukaryote Trichomonas vaginalis 
PLoS Pathogens  2010;6(7):e1000999.
The cap structure of eukaryotic messenger RNAs is initially elaborated through three enzymatic reactions: hydrolysis of the 5′-triphosphate, transfer of guanosine through a 5′-5′ triphosphate linkage and N7-methylation of the guanine cap. Three distinctive enzymes catalyze each reaction in various microbial eukaryotes, whereas the first two enzymes are fused into a single polypeptide in metazoans and plants. In addition to the guanosine cap, adjacent nucleotides are 2′-O-ribose methylated in metazoa and plants, but not in yeast. Analyses of various cap structures have suggested a linear phylogenetic trend of complexity. These findings have led to a model in which plants and metazoa evolved a two-component capping apparatus and modification of adjacent nucleotides while many microbial eukaryotes maintained the three-component system and did not develop modification of adjacent nucleotides. Here, we have characterized a bifunctional capping enzyme in the divergent microbial eukaryote Trichomonas vaginalis using biochemical and phylogenetic analyses. This unicellular parasite was found to harbor a metazoan/plant-like capping apparatus that is represented by a two-domain polypeptide containing a C-terminus guanylyltransferase and a cysteinyl phosphatase triphosphatase, distinct from its counterpart in other microbial eukaryotes. In addition, T. vaginalis mRNAs contain a cap 1 structure represented by m7GpppAmpUp or m7GpppCmpUp; a feature typical of metazoan and plant mRNAs but absent in yeast mRNAs. Phylogenetic and biochemical analyses of the origin of the T. vaginalis capping enzyme suggests a complex evolutionary model where differential gene loss and/or acquisition occurred in the development of the RNA capping apparatus and cap modified nucleotides during eukaryote diversification.
Author Summary
The protozoan parasite Trichomonas vaginalis is the cause of the most common non-viral sexually transmitted disease worldwide. Evolutionary analyses place Trichomonas in a super group called the Excavata, which includes the kinetoplastids and is highly divergent from fungi, metazoa and plants. Despite the vast evolutionary distances that separate these different eukaryotic lineages, a simplified view of eukaryotic evolution based on the complexity of nucleotide modifications at the 5′ end of mRNAs and the distribution of different types of enzymatic apparatus that confer these modifications has been proposed. Our analyses of the T. vaginalis capping enzyme challenges this view and provides the first example of a two-component capping apparatus typically found in metazoa and plants in a protozoan. The 5′-end nucleotide structure of T. vaginalis mRNAs is also shown to contain additional modified nucleotides, similar to that observed for metazoan and plant mRNAs and unlike that found in most eukaryotic microbes and fungi. Evolutionary analyses of the T. vaginalis capping enzyme indicates that this multicellular type capping apparatus may have come into existence earlier than previously thought.
PMCID: PMC2904801  PMID: 20664792
3.  The divergent eukaryote Trichomonas vaginalis has an m7G cap methyltransferase capable of a single N2 methylation 
Nucleic Acids Research  2008;36(21):6848-6858.
Eukaryotic RNAs typically contain 5′ cap structures that have been primarily studied in yeast and metazoa. The only known RNA cap structure in unicellular protists is the unusual Cap4 on Trypanosoma brucei mRNAs. We have found that T. vaginalis mRNAs are protected by a 5′ cap structure, however, contrary to that typical for eukaryotes, T. vaginalis spliceosomal snRNAs lack a cap and may contain 5′ monophophates. The distinctive 2,2,7-trimethylguanosine (TMG) cap structure usually found on snRNAs and snoRNAs is produced by hypermethylation of an m7G cap catalyzed by the enzyme trimethylguanosine synthase (Tgs). Here, we biochemically characterize the single T. vaginalis Tgs (TvTgs) encoded in its genome and demonstrate that TvTgs exhibits substrate specificity and amino acid requirements typical of an RNA cap-specific, m7G-dependent N2 methyltransferase. However, recombinant TvTgs is capable of catalysing only a single round of N2 methylation forming a 2,7-dimethylguanosine cap (DMG) as observed previously for Giardia lamblia. In contrast, recombinant Entamoeba histolytica and Trypanosoma brucei Tgs are capable of catalysing the formation of a TMG cap. These data suggest the presence of RNAs with a distinctive 5′ DMG cap in Trichomonas and Giardia lineages that are absent in other protist lineages.
PMCID: PMC2588526  PMID: 18957443
4.  Draft Genome Sequence of the Sexually Transmitted Pathogen Trichomonas vaginalis 
Science (New York, N.Y.)  2007;315(5809):207-212.
We describe the genome sequence of the protist Trichomonas vaginalis, a sexually transmitted human pathogen. Repeats and transposable elements comprise about two-thirds of the ~160-megabase genome, reflecting a recent massive expansion of genetic material. This expansion, in conjunction with the shaping of metabolic pathways that likely transpired through lateral gene transfer from bacteria, and amplification of specific gene families implicated in pathogenesis and phagocytosis of host proteins may exemplify adaptations of the parasite during its transition to a urogenital environment. The genome sequence predicts previously unknown functions for the hydrogenosome, which support a common evolutionary origin of this unusual organelle with mitochondria.
PMCID: PMC2080659  PMID: 17218520

Results 1-4 (4)