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Identification of a Novel Base J Binding Protein Complex Involved in RNA Polymerase II Transcription Termination in Trypanosomes

By Rudo Kieft, Yang Zhang, Alexandre P. Marand, Jose Dagoberto Moran, Robert Bridger, Lance Wells, Robert J. Schmitz, Robert Sabatini

Posted 30 Aug 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/753004 (published DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1008390)

Base J, β-D-glucosyl-hydroxymethyluracil, is a modification of thymine DNA base involved in RNA Polymerase (Pol) II transcription termination in kinetoplastid protozoa. Little is understood regarding how specific thymine residues are targeted for J-modification or the mechanism of J regulated transcription termination. To identify proteins involved in J-synthesis, we expressed a tagged version of the J-glucosyltransferase (JGT) in Leishmania tarentolae, and identified four co-purified proteins by mass spectrometry: protein phosphatase (PP1), a homolog of Wdr82, a potential PP1 regulatory protein (PNUTS) and a protein containing a J-DNA binding domain (named JBP3). Gel shift studies indicate JBP3 is a J-DNA binding protein. Reciprocal tagging, co-IP and sucrose gradient analyses indicate PP1, JGT, JBP3, Wdr82 and PNUTS form a multimeric complex in kinetoplastids, similar to the mammalian PTW/PP1 complex involved in transcription termination via PP1 mediated dephosphorylation of Pol II.Using RNAi and analysis of Pol II termination by RNA-seq and RT-PCR, we demonstrate that ablation of PNUTS, JBP3 and Wdr82 lead to defects in Pol II termination at the 3’-end of polycistronic gene arrays in Trypanosoma brucei. Mutants also contain increased antisense RNA levels upstream of promoters, suggesting an additional role of the complex in regulating termination of bi-directional transcription. In addition, PNUTS loss causes derepression of silent Variant Surface Glycoprotein genes important for host immune evasion. Our results provide the first direct mechanistic link between base J and regulation of Pol II termination and suggest a novel molecular model for the role of the CTD of Pol II in terminating polycistronic transcription in trypanosomatids.

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