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1.  Histone acetylations mark origins of polycistronic transcription in Leishmania major 
BMC Genomics  2009;10:152.
Many components of the RNA polymerase II transcription machinery have been identified in kinetoplastid protozoa, but they diverge substantially from other eukaryotes. Furthermore, protein-coding genes in these organisms lack individual transcriptional regulation, since they are transcribed as long polycistronic units. The transcription initiation sites are assumed to lie within the 'divergent strand-switch' regions at the junction between opposing polycistronic gene clusters. However, the mechanism by which Kinetoplastidae initiate transcription is unclear, and promoter sequences are undefined.
The chromosomal location of TATA-binding protein (TBP or TRF4), Small Nuclear Activating Protein complex (SNAP50), and H3 histones were assessed in Leishmania major using microarrays hybridized with DNA obtained through chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP-chip). The TBP and SNAP50 binding patterns were almost identical and high intensity peaks were associated with tRNAs and snRNAs. Only 184 peaks of acetylated H3 histone were found in the entire genome, with substantially higher intensity in rapidly-dividing cells than stationary-phase. The majority of the acetylated H3 peaks were found at divergent strand-switch regions, but some occurred at chromosome ends and within polycistronic gene clusters. Almost all these peaks were associated with lower intensity peaks of TBP/SNAP50 binding a few kilobases upstream, evidence that they represent transcription initiation sites.
The first genome-wide maps of DNA-binding protein occupancy in a kinetoplastid organism suggest that H3 histones at the origins of polycistronic transcription of protein-coding genes are acetylated. Global regulation of transcription initiation may be achieved by modifying the acetylation state of these origins.
PMCID: PMC2679053  PMID: 19356248
2.  The promoter and transcribed regions of the Leishmania tarentolae spliced leader RNA gene array are devoid of nucleosomes 
BMC Microbiology  2007;7:44.
The spliced leader (SL) RNA provides the 5' m7G cap and first 39 nt for all nuclear mRNAs in kinetoplastids. This small nuclear RNA is transcribed by RNA polymerase II from individual promoters. In Leishmania tarentolae the SL RNA genes reside in two multi-copy tandem arrays designated MINA and MINB. The transcript accumulation from the SL promoter on the drug-selected, episomal SL RNA gene cassette pX-tSL is ~10% that of the genomic array in uncloned L. tarentolae transfectants. This disparity is neither sequence- nor copy-number related, and thus may be due to interference of SL promoter function by epigenetic factors. To explore these possibilities we examined the nucleoplasmic localization of the SL RNA genes as well as their nucleosomal architecture.
The genomic SL RNA genes and the episome did not co-localize within the nucleus. Each genomic repeat contains one nucleosome regularly positioned within the non-transcribed intergenic region. The 363-bp MINA array was resistant to micrococcal nuclease digestion between the -258 and -72 positions relative to the transcription start point due to nucleosome association, leaving the promoter elements and the entire transcribed region exposed for protein interactions. A pattern of ~164-bp protected segments was observed, corresponding to the amount of DNA typically bound by a nucleosome. By contrast, nucleosomes on the pX-tSL episome were randomly distributed over the episomal SL cassette, reducing transcription factor access to the episomal promoter by approximately 74%. Cloning of the episome transfectants revealed a range of transcriptional activities, implicating a mechanism of epigenetic heredity.
The disorganized nucleosomes on the pX episome are in a permissive conformation for transcription of the SL RNA cassette approximately 25% of the time within a given parasite. Nucleosome interference is likely the major factor in the apparent transcriptional repression of the SL RNA gene cassette. Coupled with the requirement for run-around transcription that drives expression of the selectable drug marker, transcription of the episomal SL may be reduced even further due to sub-optimal nucleoplasmic localization and initiation complex disruption.
PMCID: PMC1888695  PMID: 17517143
3.  Trypanosoma cruzi mitochondrial maxicircles display species- and strain-specific variation and a conserved element in the non-coding region 
BMC Genomics  2006;7:60.
The mitochondrial DNA of kinetoplastid flagellates is distinctive in the eukaryotic world due to its massive size, complex form and large sequence content. Comprised of catenated maxicircles that contain rRNA and protein-coding genes and thousands of heterogeneous minicircles encoding small guide RNAs, the kinetoplast network has evolved along with an extreme form of mRNA processing in the form of uridine insertion and deletion RNA editing. Many maxicircle-encoded mRNAs cannot be translated without this post-transcriptional sequence modification.
We present the complete sequence and annotation of the Trypanosoma cruzi maxicircles for the CL Brener and Esmeraldo strains. Gene order is syntenic with Trypanosoma brucei and Leishmania tarentolae maxicircles. The non-coding components have strain-specific repetitive regions and a variable region that is unique for each strain with the exception of a conserved sequence element that may serve as an origin of replication, but shows no sequence identity with L. tarentolae or T. brucei. Alternative assemblies of the variable region demonstrate intra-strain heterogeneity of the maxicircle population. The extent of mRNA editing required for particular genes approximates that seen in T. brucei. Extensively edited genes were more divergent among the genera than non-edited and rRNA genes. Esmeraldo contains a unique 236-bp deletion that removes the 5'-ends of ND4 and CR4 and the intergenic region. Esmeraldo shows additional insertions and deletions outside of areas edited in other species in ND5, MURF1, and MURF2, while CL Brener has a distinct insertion in MURF2.
The CL Brener and Esmeraldo maxicircles represent two of three previously defined maxicircle clades and promise utility as taxonomic markers. Restoration of the disrupted reading frames might be accomplished by strain-specific RNA editing. Elements in the non-coding region may be important for replication, transcription, and anchoring of the maxicircle within the kinetoplast network.
PMCID: PMC1559615  PMID: 16553959

Results 1-3 (3)