Redesigned TetR-Aptamer system to control gene expression in plasmodium falciparum

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4 Scopus citations


One of the most powerful approaches to understanding gene function involves turning genes on and off at will and measuring the impact at the cellular or organismal level. This particularly applies to the cohort of essential genes where traditional gene knockouts are inviable. In Plasmodium falciparum, conditional control of gene expression has been achieved by using multicomponent systems in which individual modules interact with each other to regulate DNA recombination, transcription, or posttranscriptional processes. The recently devised TetR-DOZI aptamer system relies on the ligand-regulatable interaction of a protein module with synthetic RNA aptamers to control the translation of a target gene. This technique has been successfully employed to study essential genes in P. falciparum and involves the insertion of several aptamer copies into the 3= untranslated regions (UTRs), which provide control over mRNA fate. However, aptamer repeats are prone to recombination and one or more copies can be lost from the system, resulting in a loss of control over target gene expression. We rectified this issue by redesigning the aptamer array to minimize recombination while preserving the control elements. As proof of concept, we compared the original and modified arrays for their ability to knock down the levels of a putative essential apicoplast protein (PF3D7_0815700) and demonstrated that the modified array is highly stable and efficient. This redesign will enhance the utility of a tool that is quickly becoming a favored strategy for genetic studies in P. falciparum. IMPORTANCE Malaria elimination efforts have been repeatedly hindered by the evolution and spread of multidrug-resistant strains of Plasmodium falciparum. The absence of a commercially available vaccine emphasizes the need for a better understanding of Plasmodium biology in order to further translational research. This has been partly facilitated by targeted gene deletion strategies for the functional analysis of parasite genes. However, genes that are essential for parasite replication in erythrocytes are refractory to such methods, and require conditional knockdown or knockout approaches to dissect their function. One such approach is the TetRDOZI system that employs multiple synthetic aptamers in the untranslated regions of target genes to control their expression in a tetracycline-dependent manner. Maintaining modified parasites with intact aptamer copies has been challenging since these repeats can be lost by recombination. By interspacing the aptamers with unique sequences, we created a stable genetic system that remains effective at controlling target gene expression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number457
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2020


  • Malaria
  • Protein knockdown
  • RNA aptamers
  • TetR-DOZI
  • Tetracycline
  • Tetracycline repressor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology


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