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BACKGROUND: alpha- and beta-tubulin are fundamental components of the eukaryotic cytoskeleton and cell division machinery. While overall tubulin expression is carefully controlled, most eukaryotes express multiple tubulin genes in specific regulatory or developmental contexts. The genomes of the human parasites Trypanosoma brucei and Leishmania major reveal that these unicellular kinetoplastids possess arrays of tandem-duplicated tubulin genes, but with differences in organisation. While L. major possesses monotypic alpha and beta arrays in trans, an array of alternating alpha- and beta tubulin genes occurs in T. brucei. Polycistronic transcription in these organisms makes the chromosomal arrangement of tubulin genes important with respect to gene expression. RESULTS: We investigated the genomic architecture of tubulin tandem arrays among these parasites, establishing which character state is derived, and the timing of character transition. Tubulin loci in T. brucei and L. major were compared to examine the relationship between the two character states. Intergenic regions between tubulin genes were sequenced from several trypanosomatids and related, non-parasitic bodonids to identify the ancestral state. Evidence of alternating arrays was found among non-parasitic kinetoplastids and all Trypanosoma spp.; monotypic arrays were confirmed in all Leishmania spp. and close relatives. CONCLUSION: Alternating and monotypic tubulin arrays were found to be mutually exclusive through comparison of genome sequences. The presence of alternating gene arrays in non-parasitic kinetoplastids confirmed that separate, monotypic arrays are the derived state and evolved through genomic restructuring in the lineage leading to Leishmania. This fundamental reorganisation accounted for the dissimilar genomic architectures of T. brucei and L. major tubulin repertoires.

Original publication

DOI

10.1186/1471-2164-7-261

Type

Journal article

Journal

BMC Genomics

Publication Date

18/10/2006

Volume

7

Keywords

Animals, DNA, Intergenic, Gene Order, Genes, Protozoan, Genome, Protozoan, Leishmania major, Molecular Sequence Data, Parasites, Phylogeny, Sequence Analysis, DNA, Trypanosoma brucei brucei, Tubulin