In the bloodstream form of African trypanosomes, trypanosome alternative oxidase (TAO), the non-cytochrome ubiquinol:oxidoreductase, is the only terminal oxidase of the mitochondrial electron transport system. TAO is developmentally regulated during mitochondrial biogenesis in this parasite. During in vitro differentiation of Trypanosoma brucei from the bloodstream to the procyclic form, the overall rate of oxygen consumption decreased about 80%. The mode of respiration changed over a 2- to 3-wk period from a cyanide-insensitive, SHAM-sensitive pathway to a predominantly cyanide-sensitive pathway. The TAO protein level gradually decreased to the level present in the procyclic forms during this 3-wk period. However, within the first week of differentiation, the TAO transcript level decreased about 90% and then in the following weeks it reached the level present in the established procyclic form, that is about 20% of that in bloodstream forms. Like other trypanosomatid genes TAO transcript synthesis remains unaltered in fully differentiated bloodstream and procyclic trypanosomes. The half-life of the TAO mRNA was about 3.2 h in the procyclic trypanosomes, whereas the TAO transcript level remained unaltered even after 4 h of incubation with actinomycin D in bloodstream forms. Inhibition of protein synthesis resulted in about a four-fold accumulation of the TAO transcript in the procyclic trypanosomes, comparable to the level present in the bloodstream forms. Thus, TAO is regulated at the level of mRNA stability and de novo protein synthesis is required for the reduction of the TAO mRNA pool in the procyclic form.
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Vol. 49 • No. 4