Histone synthesis in Leishmania is tightly coupled to DNA replication by a post-transcriptional mechanism operating at the level of translation.
In this work we have analyzed the implication of the 5' and 3' untranslated regions (UTR) in the cell cycle regulated expression of the histone H2A in Leishmania infantum. For that purpose, L. infantum promastigotes were stably transfected with different plasmid constructs in which the CAT coding region used as a reporter was flanked by the 5' and 3' UTR regions of the different H2A genes. We report that in spite of their sequence differences, histone H2A 5' and 3' UTRs conferred a cell cycle dependent pattern of expression on the CAT reporter since de novo synthesis of CAT increased when parasites enter the S phase. Using one established L. infantum cell line we showed that CAT expression is controlled by the same regulatory events that control the endogenous histone gene expression. Thus, although we did not detect changes in the level of CAT mRNAs during cell cycle progression, a drastic change in the polysome profiles of CAT mRNAs was observed during the progression from G1 to S phase. In the S phase CAT mRNAs were on polyribosomal fractions, but in the G1 phase the association of CAT transcripts with ribosomes was impaired. Furthermore, it was determined that the addition of just the H2A 3' UTR to the CAT reporter gene is sufficient to achieve a similar pattern of post-transcriptional regulation indicating that this region contains the major regulatory sequences involved in the cell cycle dependent expression of the H2A genes. On the other hand, although CAT transcripts bearing the H2A 5' alone were translated both in the G1 and S phase, higher percentages of transcripts were detected on polyribosomes in the S phase correlating with an increase in the de novo synthesis of CAT. Thus, it can be concluded that this region also contributes, although to a minor extent than the 3' UTR, in the enhancement of translation in the S phase relative to the G1 phase.
Our findings indicate that both, the 5' and the 3' UTRs contain sequence elements that contribute to the cell cycle expression of L. infantum H2A. The 3' UTR region is essential for cell cycle dependent translation of the L. infantum H2A transcripts whereas the 5' UTR has a minor contribution in their S phase dependent translation.