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Title: An analysis of non-coding RNAs in Plasmodium falciparum and their potential role in antigenic variation
Author: Christodoulou, Zoe
ISNI:       0000 0004 2745 6155
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2012
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A major virulence factor of the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum is Plasmodium falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein 1(PfEMP-1). This protein is inserted into the erythrocyte membrane, giving cytoadherence properties. A family of genes called var, located sub-telomerically and in chromosome central clusters encode this protein. Var genes are expressed in a mutually exclusive manner, how this is controlled is unclear. A non-coding RNA (ncRNA) termed the GC-rich element (GRE) had been identified that is only located at the central clusters and is transcribed throughout the parasite lifecycle. A screen of the P. falciparum genome for novel ncRNAs identified ncRNAs from known classes. Novel transcripts were identified, but none in the proximity of var genes. We have investigated the role of the GRE in var gene regulation. A set of qRT-PCR primers have been designed and tested to follow var gene expression in the HB3 isolate, these are not cross-reactive with a published set for the 3D7 isolate. Alterations were made to the 3D7 set to remove cross-reactivity with HB3. Var gene expression was studied in 31 HB3 clones and progeny of the 3D7xHB3 genetic cross. Following var switching over five months in eleven HB3 clones showed that all of the clones ended up expressing var genes from the same central cluster on chromosome 4. GRE Transcription in these clones is linked to a specific class of var gene. Transcription from a single GRE locus occurs only when a var gene of the central UpsC class is expressed from the same cluster. Expression of other classes of var gene gives multiple transcripts from different GRE loci. Investigations into the in vitro binding properties of the GRE revealed an RNA:protein complex that can be resolved by electrophoresis. Proteomic analysis of the complex revealed predominantly ribosome proteins and translation factors.
Supervisor: Newbold, Chris Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Malaria ; Biology (medical sciences) ; Parasitology ; antigenic variation ; var genes ; non-coding RNA