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Eukaryot Cell. 2010 Jul;9(7):1087-99. doi: 10.1128/EC.00379-09. Epub 2010 May 21.

The conjugation-specific Die5 protein is required for development of the somatic nucleus in both Paramecium and Tetrahymena.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, Purdue University, 175 S. University Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907-2063, USA.


Development in ciliated protozoa involves extensive genome reorganization within differentiating macronuclei, which shapes the somatic genome of the next vegetative generation. Major events of macronuclear differentiation include excision of internal eliminated sequences (IESs), chromosome fragmentation, and genome amplification. Proteins required for these events include those with homology throughout eukaryotes as well as proteins apparently unique to ciliates. In this study, we identified the ciliate-specific Defective in IES Excision 5 (DIE5) genes of Paramecium tetraurelia (PtDIE5) and Tetrahymena thermophila (TtDIE5) as orthologs that encode nuclear proteins expressed exclusively during development. Abrogation of PtDie5 protein (PtDie5p) function by RNA interference (RNAi)-mediated silencing or TtDie5p by gene disruption resulted in the failure of developing macronuclei to differentiate into new somatic nuclei. Tetrahymena DeltaDIE5 cells arrested late in development and failed to complete genome amplification, whereas RNAi-treated Paramecium cells highly amplified new macronuclear DNA before the failure in differentiation, findings that highlight clear differences in the biology of these distantly related species. Nevertheless, IES excision and chromosome fragmentation failed to occur in either ciliate, which strongly supports that Die5p is a critical player in these processes. In Tetrahymena, loss of zygotic expression during development was sufficient to block nuclear differentiation. This observation, together with the finding that knockdown of Die5p in Paramecium still allows genome amplification, indicates that this protein acts late in macronuclear development. Even though DNA rearrangements in these two ciliates look to be quite distinct, analysis of DIE5 establishes the action of a conserved mechanism within the genome reorganization pathway.

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