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

Gene conversions mediating antigenic variation in Trypanosoma brucei can occur in variant surface glycoprotein expression sites lacking 70-base-pair repeat sequences.

African trypanosomes undergo antigenic variation of their variant surface glycoprotein ( VSG) coat to avoid immune system-mediated killing by their mammalian host. An important mechanism for switching the expressed VSG gene is the duplicative transposition of a silent VSG gene into one of the telomeric VSG expression sites of the trypanosome, resulting in the replacement of the previously expressed VSG gene. This process appears to be a gene conversion reaction, and it has been postulated that sequences within the expression site may act to initiate and direct the reaction. All bloodstream form expression sites contain huge arrays (many kilobase pairs) of 70-bp repeat sequences that act as the 5' boundary of gene conversion reactions involving most silent VSG genes. For this reason, the 70-bp repeats seemed a likely candidate to be involved in the initiation of switching. Here, we show that deletion of the 70-bp repeats from the active expression site does not affect duplicative transposition of VSG genes from silent expression sites. We conclude that the 70-bp repeats do not appear to function as indispensable initiation sites for duplicative transposition and are unlikely to be the recognition sequence for a sequence-specific enzyme which initiates recombination-based VSG switching.[1]


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