Alpha-amanitin resistant transcription of protein coding genes in insect and bloodstream form Trypanosoma brucei

EMBO J. 1989 Dec 20;8(13):4259-63.


The variant cell surface glycoprotein (VSG) gene expression sites of the protozoan Trypanosoma brucei are transcribed by an unusual alpha-amanitin resistant RNA polymerase. All other protein coding genes of T.brucei examined to date are transcribed by an alpha-amanitin sensitive RNA polymerase, presumably RNA polymerase II. We now show that transcription of protein coding genes by alpha-amanitin resistant RNA polymerases is not unique to the bloodstream form expressed VSG gene expression sites, but also occurs in insect form trypanosomes, which do not express VSG genes. In insect form trypanosomes transcription of the procyclin or PARP genes is resistant to alpha-amanitin to a degree comparable with that of VSG and ribosomal RNA (rRNA) genes. Comparison of the alpha-amanitin resistantly transcribed PARP and VSG gene families shows that they both produce one of the most abundant mRNAs [1-3% of poly(A)+] and they both encode the major cell surface proteins of their respective life cycle stages. Transcription of a subset of functionally comparable protein coding genes is thus mediated by an RNA polymerase which differs from the regular RNA polymerase II.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amanitins / pharmacology*
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism
  • DNA-Directed RNA Polymerases / metabolism
  • Drug Resistance / genetics
  • Genes / drug effects*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Multigene Family
  • Transcription, Genetic / drug effects*
  • Trypanosoma brucei brucei / drug effects
  • Trypanosoma brucei brucei / genetics*
  • Trypanosoma brucei brucei / physiology
  • Variant Surface Glycoproteins, Trypanosoma / genetics*


  • Amanitins
  • Variant Surface Glycoproteins, Trypanosoma
  • DNA-Directed RNA Polymerases