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Nature. 1990 Nov 8;348(6297):171-3.

Gene replacement in parasitic protozoa.

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Department of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115.


Trypanosomatid protozoa frequently cause severe diseases in humans. Many molecules likely to have a role during the infectious cycle have been identified, yet proof of their function is often lacking. We describe studies in Leishmania major of homologous gene targeting, a powerful method for testing gene function in other organisms. Following introduction of a construct containing dihydrofolate reductase-thymidylate synthase (dhfr-ts) flanking sequences fused to neomycin phosphotransferase, 45% of the colonies contained the planned homologous replacement; this frequency rose to nearly 100% in transfections using low amounts of DNA. Integrative transfection in Leishmania thus resembles that of Saccharomyces cerevisiae in giving predominantly homologous events. To facilitate studies of folate metabolism and chemotherapy the sole dhfr-ts copy in a heterozygous deletion line was replaced, yielding lines that were functionally DHFR-TS-. Although most genes are diploid in trypanosomatids, methods exploiting the high frequency of homologous recombination should permit complete replacement of any parasite gene.

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