Assigning functions to genes is one of the major challenges of the post-genomic era. Usually, functions are assigned based on similarity of the coding sequences to sequences of known genes, or by identification of transcriptional cis-regulatory elements that are known to be associated with specific pathways or conditions. In trypanosomatids, where regulation of gene expression takes place mainly at the post-transcriptional level, new approaches for function assignment are needed. Here we demonstrate the identification of novel S-phase expressed genes in Leishmania major, based on a post-transcriptional control element that was recognized in Crithidia fasciculata as involved in the cell cycle-dependent expression of several nuclear and mitochondrial S-phase expressed genes. Hypothesizing that a similar regulatory mechanism is manifested in L.major, we have applied a computational search for similar control elements in the genome of L.major. Our computational scan yielded 132 genes, of which 33% are homologues of known DNA metabolism genes and 63% lack any annotation. Experimental testing of seven of these genes revealed that their mRNAs cycle throughout the cell cycle, reaching a maximum level during S-phase or just prior to it. It is suggested that screening for post-transcriptional control elements associated with a specific function provides an efficient method for assigning functions to trypanosomatid genes.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study was supported, in parts, by grant No. 623 from the Israel Science Foundation (ISF) and by grant No. 2001006 from the United State-Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF), Jerusalem, Israel. I.O. was supported by a Yeshaya Horowitz Fellowship. Funding to pay the Open Access publication charges for this article was provided by grant No. 623 from the Israel Science Foundation.