We have isolated poly(A)+ RNA from four antigenic variants (117, 118, 121, 221) of one clone of Trypanosoma brucei. Translation of these poly(A)+ RNAs in a rabbit reticulocyte lysate gave rise to proteins that could be precipitated with antisera against homologous variant surface glycoprotein, the protein responsible for antigenic variation in trypanosomes. From the electrophoretic mobility of these in vitro products in sodium dodecyl sulphate (SDS) gels we infer that variant surface glycoproteins (VSGs) are made as pre-proteins, which require trimming to yield mature VSGs. The total translation products from the four poly(A)+ RNAs produced a complex set of bands on SDS gels, which only differed in the region where the variant pre-glycoproteins migrated. The only detectable variation in the messenger RNA populations of these variants is, therefore, in the messenger RNA for variant pre-glycoproteins. We have made duplex DNA copies of these poly(A)+ RNAs, linked the complementary DNA to plasmid pBR322 by GC tailing and cloned this recombinant DNA in Escherichia coli. Colony hybridization with complementary DNA made on poly(A)+ RNA showed that 7--10% of the colonies contained DNA that hybridized only with the homologous probe. Plasmid DNA was isolated from ten such colonies (two or three of each variant complementary DNA), bound to diazobenzyloxymethyl-cellulose (DBM) paper and used to select complementary messenger RNA from total poly(A)+ RNA by hybridization. In eight cases the RNA recovered from the filter gave variant pre-glycoprotein as the predominant product of in vitro translation. Poly(A)+ RNA from each of the variants only hydridized to the homologous complementary DNA in filter hybridizations. Each trypanosome variant, therefore, contains no detectable messenger RNAs for the three heterologous variant-specific glycoproteins tested. We conclude from this lack of cross-hybridization that antigenic diversity in trypanosomes, unlike antibody diversity in mammals, does not involve the linkage of a repertoire of genes for the variable N-terminal half to a single gene for the C-terminal half of the VSGs.

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Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Hoeijmakers, J.H.J, Borst, P, van den Burg, J, Weissmann, C, & Cross, G.A.M. (1980). The isolation of plasmids containing DNA complementary to messenger RNA for variant surface glycoproteins of Trypanosoma brucei. Gene, 8(4), 391–417. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1765/2953