Survival of Trypanosoma brucei depends upon switches in its protective Variant Surface Glycoprotein (VSG) coat by antigenic variation. VSG switching occurs by frequent homologous recombination, which is thought to require locus-specific initiation. Here, we show that a RecQ helicase, RECQ2, acts to repair DNA breaks, including in the telomeric site of VSG expression. Despite this, RECQ2 loss does not impair antigenic variation, but causes increased VSG switching by recombination, arguing against models for VSG switch initiation through direct generation of a DNA double strand break (DSB). Indeed, we show DSBs inefficiently direct recombination in the VSG expression site. By mapping genome replication dynamics, we reveal that the transcribed VSG expression site is the only telomeric site that is early replicating - a differential timing only seen in mammal-infective parasites. Specific association between VSG transcription and replication timing reveals a model for antigenic variation based on replication-derived DNA fragility.
- Nina Papavasiliou, Rockefeller University, United States
© 2016, Devlin et al.
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