Noncoding RNAs as emerging regulators of Plasmodium falciparum virulence gene expression

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The eukaryotic unicellular pathogen Plasmodium falciparum tightly regulates gene expression, both during development and in adaptation to dynamic host environments. This regulation is evident in the mutually exclusive expression of members of clonally variant virulence multigene families. While epigenetic regulators have been selectively identified at active or repressed virulence genes, their specific recruitment remains a mystery. In recent years, noncoding RNAs (ncRNAs) have emerged as lynchpins of eukaryotic gene regulation; by binding to epigenetic regulators, they provide target specificity to otherwise non-specific enzyme complexes. Not surprisingly, there is great interest in understanding the role of ncRNA in P. falciparum, in particular, their contribution to the mutually exclusive expression of virulence genes. The current repertoire of P. falciparum ncRNAs includes, but is not limited to, subtelomeric ncRNAs, virulence gene-associated ncRNAs and natural antisense RNA transcripts. Continued improvement in high-throughput sequencing methods is sure to expand this repertoire. Here, we summarize recent advances in P. falciparum ncRNA biology, with an emphasis on ncRNA-mediated epigenetic modes of gene regulation. © 2014 The Authors.




Vembar, S. S., Scherf, A., & Siegel, T. N. (2014). Noncoding RNAs as emerging regulators of Plasmodium falciparum virulence gene expression. Current Opinion in Microbiology. Elsevier Ltd.

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