Characterization of the accessible genome in the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum.

Nucleic Acids Res 2018 10;46(18):9414-9431

Estación Biológica de Doñana (EBD), Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Seville 41092, Spain.

Human malaria is a devastating disease and a major cause of poverty in resource-limited countries. To develop and adapt within hosts Plasmodium falciparum undergoes drastic switches in gene expression. To identify regulatory regions in the parasite genome, we performed genome-wide profiling of chromatin accessibility in two culture-adapted isogenic subclones at four developmental stages during the intraerythrocytic cycle by using the Assay for Transposase-Accessible Chromatin by sequencing (ATAC-seq). Tn5 transposase hypersensitivity sites (THSSs) localize preferentially at transcriptional start sites (TSSs). Chromatin accessibility by ATAC-seq is predictive of active transcription and of the levels of histone marks H3K9ac and H3K4me3. Our assay allows the identification of novel regulatory regions including TSS and enhancer-like elements. We show that the dynamics in the accessible chromatin profile matches temporal transcription during development. Motif analysis of stage-specific ATAC-seq sites predicts the in vivo binding sites and function of multiple ApiAP2 transcription factors. At last, the alternative expression states of some clonally variant genes (CVGs), including eba, phist, var and clag genes, associate with a differential ATAC-seq signal at their promoters. Altogether, this study identifies genome-wide regulatory regions likely to play an essential function in the developmental transitions and in CVG expression in P. falciparum.

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October 2018
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