Protozoan parasites go through various developmental stages during their parasitic life, which requires the expression of different genes. To identify stage specific gene products in Eimeria tenella, a differential screening was performed comparing the intracellular schizont stage with the extracellular oocyst stage. De novo transcripts of 18S-5.8S-26S rRNA transcription units and of two ribosomal proteins (RPL5 and RPL23) were specifically identified in schizonts and were undetectable in oocysts. The stage specific transcription of pre-rRNAs (prior to processing) was confirmed with Northern blot analysis. Since the E. tenella genome contains a repeated gene cluster with an estimated 140 large rRNA transcription units, they all might be similarly regulated. Specific expression of RPL5 and RPL23 in E. tenella schizonts was also confirmed by Northern blotting. Furthermore, an analysis of the E. tenella EST database with 26,705 ESTs showed that 9.5% of all merozoite ESTs and only 0.2% of the sporozoite ESTs encoded ribosomal proteins (RPs). These ESTs encoded 69 different RPs, suggesting that most and possibly all RPs are differentially transcribed in E. tenella. Analysis of EST data from other Coccidia, such as Toxoplasma gondii, indicated a similar stage dependent transcription of RP genes. We conclude that ribosome biosynthesis is transcriptionally regulated in E. tenella and other Coccidia, such that rapidly growing parasite stages utilize much of their resources to de novo biosynthesis of ribosomes, and that "dormant" oocyst stages do not synthesize new ribosomes. The 50- to 100-fold reduction in transcription of RPs together with the reduced rRNA transcription prevents that unnecessary new ribosomes are synthesized in oocysts. © 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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