Protozoan parasites of the genus Leishmania are the etiological agents of leishmaniasis, a group of diseases with a worldwide incidence of 0.9-1.6 million cases per year. We used RNA-seq to conduct a high-resolution transcriptomic analysis of the global changes in gene expression and RNA processing events that occur as L. major transforms from non-infective procyclic promastigotes to infective metacyclic promastigotes. Careful statistical analysis across multiple biological replicates and the removal of batch effects provided a high quality framework for comprehensively analyzing differential gene expression and transcriptome remodeling in this pathogen as it acquires its infectivity. We also identified precise 5' and 3' UTR boundaries for a majority of Leishmania genes and detected widespread alternative trans-splicing and polyadenylation. An investigation of possible correlations between stage-specific preferential trans-splicing or polyadenylation sites and differentially expressed genes revealed a lack of systematic association, establishing that differences in expression levels cannot be attributed to stage-regulated alternative RNA processing. Our findings build on and improve existing expression datasets and provide a substantially more detailed view of L. major biology that will inform the field and potentially provide a stronger basis for drug discovery and vaccine development efforts.
© The Author(s) 2015. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Nucleic Acids Research.