Research ArticleParasitology

Phosphorylation of the TATA-binding protein activates the spliced leader silencing pathway in Trypanosoma brucei

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Science Signaling  02 Sep 2014:
Vol. 7, Issue 341, pp. ra85
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.2005234

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Stress Silences Gene Transcription

Trypanosoma brucei is a species of single-cell parasites that cause African sleeping sickness in humans. Unlike most animals, T. brucei transcribe genes as a single unit, which is then processed by splicing into individual mRNAs. The individual mRNAs all have a common region called the spliced leader. In response to cellular stress caused by protein misfolding, T. brucei avoid death by silencing the transcription of the spliced leader RNA to limit new protein production. Hope et al. discovered a kinase that transmits the signal from the part of the cell that senses the stress to the nucleus where leader splicing occurs. Because this spliced leader silencing does not happen in humans, proteins in this pathway could have therapeutic relevance.