Experimental evidence suggests that apicomplexan parasites possess bipartite promoters with basal and regulated cis-elements similar to other eukaryotes. Using a dual luciferase model adapted for recombinational cloning and use in Toxoplasma gondii, we show that genomic regions flanking 16 parasite genes, which encompass examples of constitutive and tachyzoite- and bradyzoite-specific genes, are able to reproduce the appropriate developmental stage expression in a transient luciferase assay. Mapping of cis-acting elements in several bradyzoite promoters led to the identification of short sequence spans that are involved in control of bradyzoite gene expression in multiple strains and under different bradyzoite induction conditions. Promoters that regulate the heat shock protein BAG1 and a novel bradyzoite-specific NTPase during bradyzoite development were fine mapped to a 6-8 bp resolution and these minimal cis-elements were capable of converting a constitutive promoter to one that is induced by bradyzoite conditions. Gel-shift experiments show that mapped cis-elements are bound by parasite protein factors with the appropriate functional sequence specificity. These studies are the first to identify the minimal sequence elements that are required and sufficient for bradyzoite gene expression and to show that bradyzoite promoters are maintained in a 'poised' chromatin state throughout the intermediate host life cycle in low passage strains. Together, these data demonstrate that conventional eukaryotic promoter mechanisms work with epigenetic processes to regulate developmental gene expression during tissue cyst formation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology