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Expression and evolution of members of the Trypanosoma cruzi trypomastigote surface antigen multigene family.


The trypomastigote specific surface antigens of Trypanosoma cruzi are encoded by a supergene family which includes the TSA family. The TSA family is characterized by the presence of a 27-bp tandem repeat array in the coding region. Here, we report the characterization and analysis of the three TSA family members in the Esmeraldo strain of the parasite. In this strain 2 distinct telomeric members are expressed abundantly as 3.7-kb mRNAs, while the remaining member is located at an internal chromosomal site and is expressed at less than 2% of the level seen for the telomeric members. Based on hybridization to DNA separated by PFGE, 3 chromosomes of sizes 1.8 Mb, 0.98 Mb, and 0.90 Mb each contain one of the telomeric members. In addition, the two smaller chromosomes also contain the single internal member. Since both chromosomes contain similar TSA family members, and vary only slightly in size, we suggest that they are homologues. Comparisons of the nucleotide sequences of the different members of the family show that the internal gene differs from the telomeric genes primarily in sequences found 3' of the repeat array. These comparisons also reveal that the three genes are analogous, supporting the hypothesis that short segments between the family members are exchanged by gene conversion events. We propose that similar conversion events between members of different gene families may generate some of the diversity found within the supergene family.

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