Review

Control of gene expression and genetic manipulation in the Trypanosomatidae

Published: March 31, 2003
Genet. Mol. Res. 2 (1) : 148-158

Abstract

Mechanisms controlling gene expression in trypanosomatids depend on several layers of regulation, with most regulatory pathways acting at a post-transcriptional level. Consequently, these parasites can follow the rapid changes associated with transitions between the insect vector and the mammalian host, with instant reprogramming of genetic expression. Using primarily Trypanosoma brucei as a model, the basic controlling mechanisms have been elucidated and now researchers are beginning to define the cellular factors involved in the transcription, processing and translation of the mRNAs in these parasites. We describe some of the studies made on a subset of genes that are differentially expressed during the life cycles of T. brucei and T. cruzi. It is becoming evident that the regulatory strategies chosen by different species of trypanosomatids are not the same, and therefore, the lessons learned from one species do not necessarily apply to the others. Some of the tools available for genetic manipulation that have been developed along with these studies are also described. Two of them are of particular interest in this postgenomic period: inducible systems to express foreign genes and specific inhibition of gene expression by RNA interference.

Mechanisms controlling gene expression in trypanosomatids depend on several layers of regulation, with most regulatory pathways acting at a post-transcriptional level. Consequently, these parasites can follow the rapid changes associated with transitions between the insect vector and the mammalian host, with instant reprogramming of genetic expression. Using primarily Trypanosoma brucei as a model, the basic controlling mechanisms have been elucidated and now researchers are beginning to define the cellular factors involved in the transcription, processing and translation of the mRNAs in these parasites. We describe some of the studies made on a subset of genes that are differentially expressed during the life cycles of T. brucei and T. cruzi. It is becoming evident that the regulatory strategies chosen by different species of trypanosomatids are not the same, and therefore, the lessons learned from one species do not necessarily apply to the others. Some of the tools available for genetic manipulation that have been developed along with these studies are also described. Two of them are of particular interest in this postgenomic period: inducible systems to express foreign genes and specific inhibition of gene expression by RNA interference.

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