Trypanosomes, protozoan parasites from the order Kinetoplastida, have to deal with environmental changes during the interaction with their hosts. Trypanosoma cruzi, the causative agent of Chagas' disease, uses post-transcriptional mechanisms to regulate gene expression. However, few RNA-binding proteins involved in mRNA turnover control have been identified to date. In this work, an RNA recognition motif (RRM)type RNA-binding protein family named T. cruzi RNA-binding protein (TcRBP) and composed of at least six members was identified. The genomic organization of four members revealed a head to tail arrangement within a region of 15 kilobase pairs. TcRBP members have a common RRM and different auxiliary domains with a high content of glycine, glutamine, and histidine residues within their N- and C-terminal regions. TcRBPs differ in their expression patterns as well as in their homoribopolymer binding interaction in vitro, although they preferentially recognize poly(U) and poly(G) RNAs. An interesting observation was the relaxed RNA-binding interactions with several trypanosome transcripts in vitro. In contrast, co-immunoprecipitation experiments of TcRBP-containing ribonucleoprotein complexes formed in vivo revealed a highly restricted binding interaction with specific RNAs. Several TcRBP-containing complexes are stage-specific and, in some cases, bear the poly(A)-binding protein TcPABP1. Altogether, these results suggest that TcRBPs might be modulated in vivo, to favor or preclude the interaction with specific transcripts in a developmentally regulated manner.
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