Researcher ORCID Identifier
Danae Schulz, 0000-0002-0392-7245
Jennifer Havens, 0000-0003-3095-5900
Biology (HMC), Mathematics (Pomona)
The disease African trypanosomiasis imposes a severe human and economic burden for communities in sub-Saharan Africa. The parasite that causes the disease is transmitted to the bloodstream of a human or ungulate via the tsetse fly. The eukaryotic protozoan parasite Trypanosoma brucei is transmitted by the tsetse fly to both humans and animals, where it causes a fatal disease called African trypanosomiasis. While the parasite lacks canonical DNA sequence-specific transcription factors, it does possess histones, histone modifications, and proteins that write, erase, and read histone marks. Chemical inhibition of chromatin-interacting bromodomain proteins has previously been shown to perturb bloodstream specific trypanosome processes, including silencing of the variant surface glycoprotein (VSG) genes and immune evasion. Transcriptomic changes that occur in bromodomain-inhibited bloodstream parasites mirror many of the changes that occur as parasites developmentally progress from the bloodstream to the insect stage. We performed transcriptome sequencing (RNA-seq) time courses to determine the effects of chemical bromodomain inhibition in insect-stage parasites using the compound I-BET151. We found that treatment with I-BET151 causes large changes in the transcriptome of insect-stage parasites and also perturbs silencing of VSG genes. The transcriptomes of bromodomain-inhibited parasites share some features with early metacyclic-stage parasites in the fly salivary gland, implicating bromodomain proteins as important for regulating transcript levels for developmentally relevant genes. However, the downregulation of surface procyclin protein that typically accompanies developmental progression is absent in bromodomain-inhibited insect-stage parasites. We conclude that chemical modulation of bromodomain proteins causes widespread transcriptomic changes in multiple trypanosome life cycle stages. Understanding the gene-regulatory processes that facilitate transcriptome remodeling in this highly diverged eukaryote may shed light on how these mechanisms evolved.IMPORTANCE The disease African trypanosomiasis imposes a severe human and economic burden for communities in sub-Saharan Africa. The parasite that causes the disease is transmitted to the bloodstream of a human or ungulate via the tsetse fly. Because the environments of the fly and the bloodstream differ, the parasite modulates the expression of its genes to accommodate two different lifestyles in these disparate niches. Perturbation of bromodomain proteins that interact with histone proteins around which DNA is wrapped (chromatin) causes profound changes in gene expression in bloodstream-stage parasites. This paper reports that gene expression is also affected by chemical bromodomain inhibition in insect-stage parasites but that the genes affected differ depending on life cycle stage. Because trypanosomes diverged early from model eukaryotes, an understanding of how trypanosomes regulate gene expression may lend insight into how gene-regulatory mechanisms evolved. This could also be leveraged to generate new therapeutic strategies.
© 2023 Ashby et al
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
Schulz, Danae; Ashby, Ethan C.; Havens, Jennifer L.; Hardin, Johanna S.; and Rollosson, Lindsey M., "Chemical Inhibition of Bromodomain Proteins in Insect-Stage African Trypanosomes Perturbs Silencing of the Variant Surface Glycoprotein Repertoire and Results in Widespread Changes in the Transcriptome" (2023). All HMC Faculty Publications and Research. 1167.
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