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Genome-wide analysis of 3′-untranslated regions supports the existence of post-transcriptional regulons controlling gene expression in trypanosomes

Author(s): Javier G. De Gaudenzi | Santiago J. Carmona | Fernán Agüero | Alberto C. Frasch

Journal: PeerJ
ISSN 2167-8359

Volume: 1;
Start page: e118;
Date: 2013;
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Keywords: RNA-binding protein | Trypanosomes | Cis-element | Post-transcriptional control | RNA regulon

In eukaryotic cells, a group of messenger ribonucleic acids (mRNAs) encoding functionally interrelated proteins together with the trans-acting factors that coordinately modulate their expression is termed a post-transcriptional regulon, due to their partial analogy to a prokaryotic polycistron. This mRNA clustering is organized by sequence-specific RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) that bind cis-regulatory elements in the noncoding regions of genes, and mediates the synchronized control of their fate. These recognition motifs are often characterized by conserved sequences and/or RNA structures, and it is likely that various classes of cis-elements remain undiscovered. Current evidence suggests that RNA regulons govern gene expression in trypanosomes, unicellular parasites which mainly use post-transcriptional mechanisms to control protein synthesis. In this study, we used motif discovery tools to test whether groups of functionally related trypanosomatid genes contain a common cis-regulatory element. We obtained conserved structured RNA motifs statistically enriched in the noncoding region of 38 out of 53 groups of metabolically related transcripts in comparison with a random control. These motifs have a hairpin loop structure, a preferred sense orientation and are located in close proximity to the open reading frames. We found that 15 out of these 38 groups represent unique motifs in which most 3′-UTR signature elements were group-specific. Two extensively studied Trypanosoma cruzi RBPs, TcUBP1 and TcRBP3 were found associated with a few candidate RNA regulons. Interestingly, 13 motifs showed a strong correlation with clusters of developmentally co-expressed genes and six RNA elements were enriched in gene clusters affected after hyperosmotic stress. Here we report a systematic genome-wide in silico screen to search for novel RNA-binding sites in transcripts, and describe an organized network of several coordinately regulated cohorts of mRNAs in T. cruzi. Moreover, we found that structured RNA elements are also conserved in other human pathogens. These results support a model of regulation of gene expression by multiple post-transcriptional regulons in trypanosomes.
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