Histone deacetylases play distinct roles in telomeric VSG expression site silencing in African trypanosomes

Qiao-Ping Wang, Taemi Kawahara, David Horn

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    57 Citations (Scopus)


    P>African trypanosomes evade the host immune response through antigenic variation, which is achieved by periodically expressing different variant surface glycoproteins (VSGs). VSG expression is monoallelic such that only one of approximately 15 telomeric VSG expression sites (ESs) is transcribed at a time. Epigenetic regulation is involved in VSG control but our understanding of the mechanisms involved remains incomplete. Histone deacetylases are potential drug targets for diseases caused by protozoan parasites. Here, using recombinant expression we show that the essential Trypanosoma brucei deacetylases, DAC1 (class I) and DAC3 (class II) display histone deacetylase activity. Both DAC1 and DAC3 are nuclear proteins in the bloodstream stage parasite, while only DAC3 remains concentrated in the nucleus in insect-stage cells. Consistent with developmentally regulated localization, DAC1 antagonizes SIR2rp1-dependent telomeric silencing only in the bloodstream form, indicating a conserved role in the control of silent chromatin domains. In contrast, DAC3 is specifically required for silencing at VSG ES promoters in both bloodstream and insect-stage cells. We conclude that DAC1 and DAC3 play distinct roles in subtelomeric gene silencing and that DAC3 represents the first readily druggable target linked to VSG ES control in the African trypanosome.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1237-1245
    Number of pages9
    JournalMolecular Microbiology
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2010


    • FAMILY
    • DNA
    • RPD3
    • YEAST
    • BRUCEI


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