A comparative study of small RNAs in Toxoplasma gondii of distinct genotypes
1 Key Laboratory of Zoonosis, Ministry of Education, Jilin University, Xi An Da Lu 5333, Changchun, 130062, China
2 MOH Key Laboratory of Systems Biology of Pathogens, Institute of Pathogen Biology, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences & Peking Union Medical College, Beijing, China
Parasites & Vectors 2012, 5:186 doi:10.1186/1756-3305-5-186Published: 3 September 2012
Toxoplasma gondii is an intracellular parasite with a significant impact on human health. Inside the mammalian and avian hosts, the parasite can undergo rapid development or remain inactive in the cysts. The mechanism that regulates parasite proliferation has not been fully understood. Small noncoding RNAs (sncRNA) such as microRNAs (miRNAs) are endogenous regulatory factors that can modulate cell differentiation and development. It is anticipated that hundreds of miRNAs regulate the expression of thousands of genes in a single organism. SncRNAs have been identified in T. gondii, however the profiles of sncRNAs expression and their potential regulatory function in parasites of distinct genotypes has largely been unknown.
The transcription profiles of miRNAs in the two genetically distinct strains, RH and ME49, of T. gondii were investigated and compared by a high-through-put RNA sequencing technique and systematic bioinformatics analysis. The expression of some of the miRNAs was confirmed by Northern blot analysis.
1,083,320 unique sequences were obtained. Of which, 17 conserved miRNAs related to 2 metazoan miRNA families and 339 novel miRNAs were identified. A total of 175 miRNAs showed strain-specific expression, of which 155 miRNAs were up-regulated in RH strain and 20 miRNAs were up-regulated in ME49 strain. Strain-specific expression of miRNAs in T. gondii could be due to activation of specific genes at different genomic loci or due to arm-switching of the same pre-miRNA duplex.
Evidence for the differential expression of miRNAs in the two genetically distinct strains of T. gondii has been identified and defined. MiRNAs of T. gondii are more species-specific as compared to other organisms, which can be developed as diagnostic biomarkers for toxoplasmosis. The data also provide a framework for future studies on RNAi-dependent regulatory mechanisms in the zoonotic parasite.