The promoter for the procyclic acidic repetitive protein (PARP) genes of Trypanosoma brucei shares features with RNA polymerase I promoters.
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All eukaryotic protein-coding genes are believed to be transcribed by RNA polymerase (Pol) II. An exception may exist in the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma brucei, in which the genes encoding the variant surface glycoprotein (VSG) and procyclic acidic repetitive protein (PARP) are transcribed by an RNA polymerase that is resistant to the Pol II inhibitor alpha-amanitin. The PARP and VSG genes were proposed to be transcribed by Pol I (C. Shea, M. G.-S. Lee, and L. H. T. Van der Ploeg, Cell 50:603-612, 1987; G. Rudenko, M. G.-S. Lee, and L. H. T. Van der Ploeg, Nucleic Acids Res. 20:303-306, 1992), a suggestion that has been substantiated by the finding that trypanosomes can transcribe protein-coding genes by Pol I (G. Rudenko, H.-M. Chung, V. P. Pham, and L. H. T. Van der Ploeg, EMBO J. 10:3387-3397, 1991). We analyzed the sequence elements of the PARP promoter by linker scanning mutagenesis and compared the PARP promoter with Pol I, Pol II, and Pol III promoters. The PARP promoter appeared to be of limited complexity and contained at least two critical regions. The first was located adjacent to the transcription initiation site (nucleotides [nt] -69 to +12) and contained three discrete domains in which linker scanning mutants affected the transcriptional efficiency: at nt -69 to -56, -37 to -11, and -11 to +12. The second region was located between nt -140 and -131, and a third region may be located between nt -228 and -205. The nucleotide sequences of these elements, and their relative positioning with respect to the transcription initiation site did not resemble those of either Pol II or Pol III promoter elements, but rather reflected the organization of Pol I promoters in (i) similarity in the positioning of essential domains in the PARP promoter and Pol I promoter, (ii) strong sequence homology between the PARP core promoter element (nt -37 to -11) and identically positioned nucleotide sequences in the trypanosome rRNA and VSG gene promoters, and (iii) moderate effects on promoter activity of mutations around the transcription initiation site.