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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Putative SF2 helicases of the early-branching eukaryote Giardia lamblia are involved in antigenic variation and parasite differentiation into cysts

Pablo R Gargantini*, Marianela C Serradell, Alessandro Torri and Hugo D Lujan

Author Affiliations

Laboratory of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, School of Medicine, Catholic University of Córdoba, Córdoba, X5004ASK, Argentina

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BMC Microbiology 2012, 12:284  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-12-284

Published: 28 November 2012

Abstract

Background

Regulation of surface antigenic variation in Giardia lamblia is controlled post-transcriptionally by an RNA-interference (RNAi) pathway that includes a Dicer-like bidentate RNase III (gDicer). This enzyme, however, lacks the RNA helicase domain present in Dicer enzymes from higher eukaryotes. The participation of several RNA helicases in practically all organisms in which RNAi was studied suggests that RNA helicases are potentially involved in antigenic variation, as well as during Giardia differentiation into cysts.

Results

An extensive in silico analysis of the Giardia genome identified 32 putative Super Family 2 RNA helicases that contain almost all the conserved RNA helicase motifs. Phylogenetic studies and sequence analysis separated them into 22 DEAD-box, 6 DEAH-box and 4 Ski2p-box RNA helicases, some of which are homologs of well-characterized helicases from higher organisms. No Giardia putative helicase was found to have significant homology to the RNA helicase domain of Dicer enzymes. Additionally a series of up- and down-regulated putative RNA helicases were found during encystation and antigenic variation by qPCR experiments. Finally, we were able to recognize 14 additional putative helicases from three different families (RecQ family, Swi2/Snf2 and Rad3 family) that could be considered DNA helicases.

Conclusions

This is the first comprehensive analysis of the Super Family 2 helicases from the human intestinal parasite G. lamblia. The relative and variable expression of particular RNA helicases during both antigenic variation and encystation agrees with the proposed participation of these enzymes during both adaptive processes. The putatives RNA and DNA helicases identified in this early-branching eukaryote provide initial information regarding the biological role of these enzymes in cell adaptation and differentiation.

Keywords:
RNA/DNA helicases; Giardia lamblia; Encystation; Antigenic variation; Cell differentiation; Gene expression; RNAi; Dicer