Plasmodium falciparum origin recognition complex 1 (ORC1) protein has been implicated in DNA replication and silencing var gene family. However, the mechanism and the domain structure of ORC1 related to the regulation of var gene family are unknown. Here we show that the unique N-terminus of PfORC1 (PfORC1N1–238) is targeted to the nuclear periphery in vivo and this region binds to the telomeric DNA in vitro due to the presence of a leucine heptad repeats. Like PfORC1N1–238, endogenous full length ORC1, was found to be associated with sub telomeric repeat regions and promoters of various var genes. Additionally, binding and propagation of ORC1 to telomeric and subtelomeric regions was severely compromised in PfSir2 deficient parasites suggesting the dependence of endogenous ORC1 on Sir2 for var gene regulation. This feature is not previously described for Plasmodium ORC1 and contrary to yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae where ORC function as a landing pad for Sir proteins. Interestingly, the overexpression of ORC1N1–238 compromises the binding of Sir2 at the subtelomeric loci and var gene promoters consistent with de-repression of some var genes. These results establish role of the N-terminus of PfORC1 in heterochromatin formation and regulation of var gene expression in co-ordination with Sir2 in P. falciparum.
This article was published in Nucleic Acid Research and is free to view online.