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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Sequences homologous to variant antigen mRNA spliced leader in Trypanosomatidae which do not undergo antigenic variation.

Trypanosomes which parasitize mammals have evolved mechanisms to evade immune attack, such as the occupation of 'safe' intracellular sites (for example, Trypanosoma cruzi), or antigenic variation, exemplified by the salivarian trypanosomes (for example, Trypanosoma brucei). Antigenic variation is mediated by sequential expression of single variant surface glycoprotein ( VSG) genes, and often involves transposition of the active gene. Every VSG transcript examined shares the same 5' terminal 35-nucleotide leader sequence. In T. brucei, this leader is encoded within a 1.4-kilobase unit tandemly reiterated to form a large array. It is hypothesized that this array is distantly linked to the expressed VSG gene and functions as a multiple promoter of VSG gene transcription, restricting transcription to that gene which, through genomic rearrangement, is placed downstream from the array. Leader and structural gene sequences are presumably juxtaposed by RNA splicing. Here we show that several trypanosomatids, both those which undergo antigenic variation (Trypanosoma congolense and Trypanosoma vivax) and those which do not (T. cruzi and Leptomonas collosoma), contain reiterated sequences homologous to the T. brucei spliced leader (SL). These results suggest that the SL, although utilized in VSG gene expression, is an ancestral sequence also used in the expression of other trypanosomatid genes.[1]


  1. Sequences homologous to variant antigen mRNA spliced leader in Trypanosomatidae which do not undergo antigenic variation. Nelson, R.G., Parsons, M., Selkirk, M., Newport, G., Barr, P.J., Agabian, N. Nature (1984) [Pubmed]
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