Exploration of the Nuclear Proteomes in the Ciliate Oxytricha trifallax

Microorganisms. 2023 Jan 30;11(2):343. doi: 10.3390/microorganisms11020343.


Nuclear dimorphism is a fundamental feature of ciliated protozoa, which have separate somatic and germline genomes in two distinct organelles within a single cell. The transcriptionally active somatic genome, contained within the physically larger macronucleus, is both structurally and functionally different from the silent germline genome housed in the smaller micronucleus. This difference in genome architecture is particularly exaggerated in Oxytricha trifallax, in which the somatic genome comprises tens of thousands of gene-sized nanochromosomes maintained at a high and variable ploidy, while the germline has a diploid set of megabase-scale chromosomes. To examine the compositional differences between the nuclear structures housing the genomes, we performed a proteomic survey of both types of nuclei and of macronuclear histones using quantitative mass spectrometry. We note distinct differences between the somatic and germline nuclei, with many functional proteins being highly enriched in one of the two nuclei. To validate our conclusions and the efficacy of nuclear separation, we used protein localization through a combination of transformations and immunofluorescence. We also note that the macronuclear histones strikingly display only activating marks, consistent with the conclusion that the macronucleus is the hub of transcription. These observations suggest that the compartmentalization of different genome features into separate structures has been accompanied by a similar specialization of nuclear components that maintain and facilitate the functions of the genomes specific to each nucleus.

Keywords: Oxytricha; ciliate; histone; macronucleus; micronucleus; nuclear proteome; proteomics.