Background: The Trypanosoma brucei cell cycle is regulated by combinations of cyclin/CRKs (cdc2 related kinases). Recently, two additional cyclins (CYC10, CYC11) and six new CRK (CRK7-12) homologues were identified in the T. brucei genome database 12.
Results: Individual RNAi knockdowns of these new proteins in the procyclic form of T. brucei showed no apparent phenotype except for the CRK9 depletion, which enriched the cells in G2/M phase. But a similar CRK9 knockdown in the bloodstream form caused no apparent phenotype. CRK9 lacks the typical PSTAIRE motif for cyclin binding and the phenylalanine "gatekeeper" but binds to cyclin B2 in vitro and localizes to the nucleus in both forms of T. brucei. CRK9-depleted procyclic-form generated no detectable anucleate cells, suggesting an inhibition of cytokinesis by CRK9 depletion as well. The knockdown enriched cells with one nucleus, one kinetoplast and two closely associated basal bodies with an average distance of 1.08 mm in between, which was shorter than the control value of 1.36 microm, and the cells became morphologically deformed and rounded with time.
Conclusion: CRK9 may play a role in mediating the segregation between the two kinetoplast/basal body pairs prior to cytokinetic initiation. Since such a segregation over a relatively significant distance is essential for cytokinetic initiation only in the procyclic but may not be in the bloodstream form, CRK9 could be specifically involved in regulating cytokinetic initiation in the procyclic form of T. brucei.