The trypanosome mitochondrial genome, kinetoplast DNA (kDNA), is a massive network of interlocked DNA rings, including several thousand minicircles and dozens of maxicircles. The unusual complexity of kDNA would indicate that numerous proteins must be involved in its condensation, replication, segregation and gene expression. During our investigation of trypanosome mitochondrial PIF1-like helicases, we found that TbPIF8 is the smallest and most divergent. It lacks some conserved helicase domains, thus implying that unlike other mitochondrial PIF1-like helicases, this protein may have no enzymatic activity. TbPIF8 is positioned on the distal face of kDNA disk and its localization patterns vary with different kDNA replication stages. Stem-loop RNAi of TbPIF8 arrests cell growth and causes defects in kDNA segregation. RNAi of TbPIF8 causes only limited kDNA shrinkage but the networks become disorganized. Electron microcopy of thin sections of TbPIF8-depleted cells shows heterogeneous electron densities in the kinetoplast disk. Although we do not yet know its exact function, we conclude that TbPIF8 is essential for cell viability and is important for maintenance of kDNA.
© 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.