TbPIF5 is a Trypanosoma brucei mitochondrial DNA helicase involved in processing of minicircle Okazaki fragments

PLoS Pathog. 2009 Sep;5(9):e1000589. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1000589. Epub 2009 Sep 25.


Trypanosoma brucei's mitochondrial genome, kinetoplast DNA (kDNA), is a giant network of catenated DNA rings. The network consists of a few thousand 1 kb minicircles and several dozen 23 kb maxicircles. Here we report that TbPIF5, one of T. brucei's six mitochondrial proteins related to Saccharomyces cerevisiae mitochondrial DNA helicase ScPIF1, is involved in minicircle lagging strand synthesis. Like its yeast homolog, TbPIF5 is a 5' to 3' DNA helicase. Together with other enzymes thought to be involved in Okazaki fragment processing, TbPIF5 localizes in vivo to the antipodal sites flanking the kDNA. Minicircles in wild type cells replicate unidirectionally as theta-structures and are unusual in that Okazaki fragments are not joined until after the progeny minicircles have segregated. We now report that overexpression of TbPIF5 causes premature removal of RNA primers and joining of Okazaki fragments on theta structures. Further elongation of the lagging strand is blocked, but the leading strand is completed and the minicircle progeny, one with a truncated H strand (ranging from 0.1 to 1 kb), are segregated. The minicircles with a truncated H strand electrophorese on an agarose gel as a smear. This replication defect is associated with kinetoplast shrinkage and eventual slowing of cell growth. We propose that TbPIF5 unwinds RNA primers after lagging strand synthesis, thus facilitating processing of Okazaki fragments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphatases / metabolism
  • DNA / chemistry
  • DNA / genetics
  • DNA / metabolism*
  • DNA Helicases / genetics
  • DNA Helicases / metabolism*
  • DNA Primers
  • DNA, Kinetoplast / chemistry
  • DNA, Kinetoplast / metabolism
  • Gene Knockout Techniques
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Microscopy, Phase-Contrast
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc / metabolism
  • Protozoan Proteins / genetics
  • Protozoan Proteins / metabolism*
  • RNA Interference
  • Recombinant Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism
  • Trypanosoma brucei brucei / enzymology*
  • Trypanosoma brucei brucei / genetics


  • DNA Primers
  • DNA, Kinetoplast
  • Okazaki fragments
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc
  • Protozoan Proteins
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • DNA
  • Adenosine Triphosphatases
  • DNA Helicases