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Cell. 2012 Aug 31;150(5):909-21. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2012.07.030.

Glucosylated hydroxymethyluracil, DNA base J, prevents transcriptional readthrough in Leishmania.

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Division of Molecular Biology, The Netherlands Cancer Institute, Plesmanlaan 121, 1066 CX Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


Some Ts in nuclear DNA of trypanosomes and Leishmania are hydroxylated and glucosylated to yield base J (β-D-glucosyl-hydroxymethyluracil). In Leishmania, about 99% of J is located in telomeric repeats. We show here that most of the remaining J is located at chromosome-internal RNA polymerase II termination sites. This internal J and telomeric J can be reduced by a knockout of J-binding protein 2 (JBP2), an enzyme involved in the first step of J biosynthesis. J levels are further reduced by growing Leishmania JBP2 knockout cells in BrdU-containing medium, resulting in cell death. The loss of internal J in JBP2 knockout cells is accompanied by massive readthrough at RNA polymerase II termination sites. The readthrough varies between transcription units but may extend over 100 kb. We conclude that J is required for proper transcription termination and infer that the absence of internal J kills Leishmania by massive readthrough of transcriptional stops.

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