Lifecycle progression in Trypanosoma brucei: genome-wide expression profiling and role of the cell cycle in this process
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The bloodstream form of Trypanosoma brucei differentiates into the stumpy form in the mammalian bloodstream, completing differentiation into the procyclic form on uptake by the tsetse fly. The underlying genetic events occurring during this differentiation process in pleomorphic cell lines were investigated through whole-genome microarray studies of key time points during differentiation from stumpy form cells to the procyclic form found in the insect midgut. The microarray was extensively validated and bioinformatic experiments conducted to detect motifs over represented in stumpy form or slender form cells. A positional-dependent motif was identified that was over represented in stumpy form cells, possibly representing a regulatory domain. The transcripts found to be enriched in stumpy form cells included a chloride channel, although RNAi directed against this gene showed no phenotype, suggesting the protein is redundant, as three other homologous proteins exist in the genome and showed similar mRNA profiles on the microarray. Stumpy form cells are G0 arrested and two proteins implicated in G0/G1 regulation in other organisms, Target of Rapamycin (Tor) and Cdh1, were investigated in T. brucei to determine whether these proteins were involved in differentiation. The result of depletion of either protein was rapid cell death in bloodstream form cells, although treatment with the drug rapamycin did not have any effect on the cells in contrast to other eukaryotes where this drug causes G1 arrest. A method for synchronisation of bloodstream form cells was also designed using a supravital dye and flow cytometry to allow investigation into cell cycle-dependent processes. This method was particularly suitable for harvesting populations enriched in G0/G1 stage cells, however differentiation of the isolated G0/G1 and G2/M populations did not show significantly different differentiation kinetics.