Previously unidentified histone H1-like protein is involved in cell division and ribosome biosynthesis in toxoplasma gondii

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Chromatin dynamics can regulate all DNA-dependent processes. Access to DNA within chromatin is orchestrated mainly by histones and their posttranslational modifications (PTMs). Like other eukaryotes, the apicomplexan parasite Toxoplasma gondii encodes four canonical histones and five histone variants. In contrast, the linker histone (H1) has never been identified in apicomplexan parasites. In other eukaryotes, histone H1 compacts the chromatin by linking the nucleosome and increasing the DNA compaction. H1 is a multifunctional protein and can be involved in different steps of DNA metabolism or associated with protein complexes related to distinct biological processes. We have identified a novel protein in T. gondii (“TgH1-like”) that, although lacking the globular domain of mammalian H1, is remarkably like the H1-like proteins of bacteria and trypanosomatids. Our results demonstrate that TgH1-like is a nuclear protein associated with chromatin and other histones. Curiously, TgH1-like is also in the nucleolus and associated with ribosomal proteins, indicating a versatile function in this parasite. Although knockout of the tgh1-like gene does not affect the cell cycle, it causes endopolygeny and asynchronous division. Interestingly, mutation of posttranslationally modified amino acids results in defects in cell division like those in the Δtgh1-like mutant, showing that these sites are important for protein function. Furthermore, in the bradyzoite stage, this protein is expressed only in dividing parasites, reinforcing its importance in cell division. Indeed, the absence of TgH1-like decreases compaction of peripheral chromatin, confirming its role in the chromatin modulation in T. gondii. Histone H1, or linker histone, is an important protein that binds to the nucleosome, aiding chromatin compaction. Here, we characterize for the first time a linker histone in T. gondii, named TgH1-like. It is a small and basic protein that corresponds only to the C-terminal portion of the human H1 but is similar to histone H1 from trypanosomatids and bacteria. TgH1-like is located in the nucleus, interacts with nucleosome histones, and acts in chromatin structure and cell division. Our findings show for the first time the presence of a histone H1 protein in an apicomplexan parasite and will provide new insights into cell division and chromatin dynamics in T. gondii and related parasites.
Severo V, Souza R, Vitorino FNL, Da Cunha JPC, Ávila A, Arrizabalaga G, et al. Previously unidentified histone H1-like protein is involved in cell division and ribosome biosynthesis in toxoplasma gondii. mSphere. 2022 Nov-Dec; 7(6):e00403-22. doi:10.1128/msphere.00403-22.
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