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PLoS One. 2012;7(12):e52799. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0052799. Epub 2012 Dec 10.

The zinc finger protein Zfr1p is localized specifically to conjugation junction and required for sexual development in Tetrahymena thermophila.

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Key Laboratory of Chemical Biology and Molecular Engineering of Ministry of Education, Institute of Biotechnology, Shanxi University, Taiyuan, China.


Conjugation in Tetrahymena thermophila involves a developmental program consisting of three prezygotic nuclear divisions, pronuclear exchange and fusion, and postzygotic and exconjugant stages. The conjugation junction structure appears during the initiation of conjugation development, and disappears during the exconjugant stage. Many structural and functional proteins are involved in the establishment and maintenance of the junction structure in T. thermophila. In the present study, a zinc finger protein-encoding gene ZFR1 was found to be expressed specifically during conjugation and to localize specifically to the conjugation junction region. Truncated Zfr1p localized at the plasma membrane in ordered arrays and decorated Golgi apparatus located adjacent to basal body. The N-terminal zinc finger and C-terminal hydrophobic domains of Zfr1p were found to be required for its specific conjugation junction localization. Conjugation development of ZFR1 somatic knockout cells was aborted at the pronuclear exchange and fusion conjugation stages. Furthermore, Zfr1p was found to be important for conjugation junction stability during the prezygotic nuclear division stage. Taken together, our data reveal that Zfr1p is required for the stability and integrity of the conjugation junction structure and essential for the sexual life cycle of the Tetrahymena cell.

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