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Mol Microbiol. 2005 Aug;57(3):706-16.

Disruption of the developmental programme of Trypanosoma brucei by genetic ablation of TbZFP1, a differentiation-enriched CCCH protein.

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  • 1Institute of Immunology and Infection Research, School of Biological Sciences, Ashworth Laboratories, University of Edinburgh, West Mains Road, Edinburgh EH9 3JT, UK.


The regulation of differentiation is particularly important in microbial eukaryotes that inhabit multiple environments. The parasite Trypanosoma brucei is an extreme example of this, requiring exquisite gene regulation during transmission from mammals to the tsetse fly vector. Unusually, trypanosomes rely almost exclusively on post-transcriptional mechanisms for regulated gene expression. Hence, RNA binding proteins are potentially of great significance in controlling stage-regulated processes. We have previously identified TbZFP1 as a trypanosome molecule transiently enriched during differentiation to tsetse midgut procyclic forms. This small protein (101 amino acids) contains the unusual CCCH zinc finger, an RNA binding motif. Here, we show that genetic ablation of TbZFP1 compromises repositioning of the mitochondrial genome, a specific event in the strictly regulated differentiation programme. Despite this, other events that occur both before and after this remain intact. Significantly, this phenotype correlates with the TbZFP1 expression profile during differentiation. This is the first genetic disruption of a developmental regulator in T. brucei. It demonstrates that programmed events in parasite development can be uncoupled at the molecular level. It also further supports the importance of CCCH proteins in key aspects of trypanosome cell function.

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