Trypanosoma brucei expresses Variant Surface Glycoprotein (VSG) genes in a strictly monoallelic fashion in its mammalian hosts, and the regulation of this important virulence mechanism has been the research focus for decades. Telomere position effect (TPE), an epigenetic phenomenon, has been proposed to play a critical role in VSG regulation, yet no telomeric protein was identified whose disruption led to VSG derepression. We recently identified tbRAP1 as an intrinsic component of the T. brucei telomere complex and a major regulator for silencing VSG expression sites (ESs). Knockdown of tbRAP1 led to derepression of all ES-linked VSGs but not VSGs located elsewhere, and resulted in stronger derepression of telomere-proximal genes than telomere-distal genes. This tapered silencing pattern further argues that telomere integrity plays a key role in tbRAP1-dependent silencing and for the first time provides direct evidence indicating that telomeres are important for VSG expression regulation. Whether chromatin remodeling is important for tbRAP1-mediated silencing as in classical TPE will also be discussed. © 2010 Landes Bioscience.
Li, Bibo, "A Newly Discovered Role of Telomeres in an Ancient Organism" (2010). Biological, Geological, and Environmental Faculty Publications. 223.
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