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Nucleic Acids Res. Dec 21, 1984; 12(24): 9457–9472.
PMCID: PMC320473

Alpha-amanitin-insensitive transcription of variant surface glycoprotein genes provides further evidence for discontinuous transcription in trypanosomes.


Many, if not all, mRNAs in T.brucei start with the same sequence of 35 nucleotides, separately encoded in clustered so-called mini-exon repeats. From these mini-exon repeats a 141-nt precursor RNA with the 35-nt sequence at its 5' end is transcribed. Indirect evidence suggests that this RNA is linked in a second step to pre-mRNA transcripts. We have studied the sensitivity of RNA synthesis to alpha-amanitin in isolated trypanosome nuclei. Transcription of several protein coding genes is almost completely inhibited by a concentration of 5 micrograms alpha-amanitin per ml, whereas strong inhibition of mini-exon transcription is achieved with 200 micrograms alpha-amanitin per ml. In contrast, transcription of genes for variant surface glycoproteins (VSGs) is not inhibited by 1000 micrograms alpha-amanitin per ml, as is transcription of the genes for the major rRNAs. Since the mature VSG mRNAs start with the 35-nt sequence, our results provide additional evidence that the 35-nt sequence and the main part of VSG mRNA are produced from independent transcription units, these are transcribed by (partly) different RNA polymerases.

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Selected References

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