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Post-transcriptional regulation of Leishmania fitness gain

Tirza Doniger
Ron Unger

Abstract

Abstract The protozoan parasite Leishmania donovani causes fatal human visceral leishmaniasis in absence of treatment. Genome instability has been recognized as a driver in Leishmania fitness gain in response to environmental change or chemotherapy. How genome instability generates beneficial phenotypes despite potential deleterious gene dosage effects is unknown. Here we address this important open question applying experimental evolution and integrative systems approaches on parasites adapting to in vitro culture. Phenotypic analyses of parasites from early and late stages of culture adaptation revealed an important fitness tradeoff, with selection for accelerated growth (fitness gain) impairing infectivity (fitness costs). Comparative genomics, transcriptomics and proteomics analyses revealed a complex regulatory network driving parasite fitness, with genome instability causing highly reproducible, gene dosage-dependent changes in protein linked to post-transcriptional regulation. These in turn were associated with a gene dosage-independent reduction in flagellar transcripts and a coordinated increase in abundance of coding and non-coding RNAs known to regulate ribosomal biogenesis and protein translation. We correlated differential expression of small nucleolar RNAs (snoRNAs) with changes in rRNA modification, providing first evidence that Leishmania fitness gain may be controlled by post-transcriptional and epitranscriptomic regulation. Our findings propose a novel model for Leishmania fitness gain, where differential regulation of mRNA stability and the generation of fitness-adapted ribosomes may potentially filter deleterious from beneficial gene dosage effects and provide proteomic robustness to genetically heterogenous, adapting parasite populations. This model challenges the current, genome-centric approach to Leishmania epidemiology and identifies the Leishmania non-coding small RNome as a potential novel source for biomarker discovery.
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pasteur-03210825 , version 1 (28-04-2021)

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Attribution - NonCommercial - NoDerivatives

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Laura Piel, K. Shanmugha Rajan, Giovanni Bussotti, Hugo Varet, Rachel Legendre, et al.. Post-transcriptional regulation of Leishmania fitness gain. 2021. ⟨pasteur-03210825⟩
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