Histone modification plays an important role in various biological processes, including gene expression regulation. Bromodomain, as one of histone readers, recognizes specifically the ε-N-lysine acetylation (KAc) of histone. Although the bromodomains and histone acetylation sites of Trypanosoma brucei (T. brucei), a lethal parasite responsible for sleeping sickness in human and nagana in cattle, have been identified, how acetylated histones are recognized by bromodomains is still unknown. Here, the bromodomain factor 2 (TbBDF2) from T. brucei was identified to be located in the nucleolus and bind to the hyperacetylated N-terminus of H2AZ which dimerizes with H2BV. The bromodomain of TbBDF2 (TbBDF2-BD) displays a conserved fold that comprises a left-handed bundle of four α-helices (αZ, αA, αB, αC), linked by loop regions of variable length (ZA and BC loops), which form the KAc-binding pocket. NMR chemical shift perturbation further revealed that TbBDF2-BD binds to the hyperacetylated N-terminus of H2AZ through its KAc-binding pocket. By structure-based virtual screening combining with the ITC experiment, a small molecule compound, GSK2801, was shown to have high affinity to TbBDF2-BD. GSK2801 and the hyperacetylated N-terminus of H2AZ have similar binding sites on TbBDF2-BD. In addition, GSK2801 competitively inhibits the hyperacetylated N-terminus of H2AZ binding to TbBDF2-BD. After treatment of GSK2801, cell growth was inhibited and localization of TbBDF2 was disrupted. Our results report a novel bromodomain-histone recognition by TbBDF2-BD and imply that TbBDF2 may serve as a potential chemotherapeutic target for the treatment of trypanosomiasis.

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