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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1994 Jan 4;91(1):370-4.

A conserved stem-loop structure in the 3' untranslated region of procyclin mRNAs regulates expression in Trypanosoma brucei.

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  • 1Institut für Allgemeine Mikrobiologie, Universität Bern, Switzerland.


African trypanosomes that cycle between mammalian hosts and the tsetse fly vector must be poised to survive in different environments. The control of stage-specific gene expression is undoubtedly one of the keys to successful adaptation, but no regulatory elements have been defined to date. Procyclins (also known as procyclic acidic repetitive proteins) are specifically expressed on the surface of procyclic and epimastigote forms in the fly. Procyclin genes are already transcribed in bloodstream forms, but stable mRNA, and later the protein, are first detected when the parasites begin to differentiate into procyclic forms. We have now identified a region of 16 bases that forms part of a predicted stem-loop structure in the 3' untranslated regions of different procyclin mRNAs; both the sequence and the secondary structure of this 16-mer appear to be required for efficient translation of a reporter gene in procyclic forms. The level of steady-state mRNA, its polyadenylylation, and its distribution in the cell are all unaffected by the presence or absence of this element. Deletion of the 16-mer alone reduces expression more than removal or reversal of the entire 3' untranslated region and flanking region, suggesting that there are additional negative regulatory elements in the same 3' untranslated region.

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