Figure 9.24. Regulation of the lactose operon of Escherichia coli.

Figure 9.24Regulation of the lactose operon of Escherichia coli

(A) The operator sequence lies immediately downstream of the promoter for the lactose operon. (B) In the original model for lactose regulation, the lactose repressor is looked on as a simple blocking device that binds to the operator and prevents the RNA polymerase gaining access to the promoter. The three genes in the operon are therefore switched off. This is the situation in the absence of lactose, although transcription is not completely blocked because the repressor occasionally detaches, allowing a few transcripts to be made. Because of this basal level of transcription, the bacterium always possesses a few copies of each of the three enzymes coded by the operon (see Figure 2.20A), probably less than five of each. This means that when the bacterium encounters a source of lactose it is able to transport a few molecules into the cell and split these into glucose and galactose. An intermediate in this reaction is allolactose, an isomer of lactose, which induces expression of the lactose operon by binding to the repressor, causing a change in the conformation of the latter so it is no longer able to attach to the operator. This allows the RNA polymerase to bind to the promoter and transcribe the three genes. When fully induced, approximately 5000 copies of each protein product are present in the cell. When the lactose supply is used up and allolactose is no longer present, the repressor re-attaches to the operator and the operon is switched off. Note that the shapes of the repressor and polymerase structures shown here are purely schematic.

From: Chapter 9, Assembly of the Transcription Initiation Complex

Cover of Genomes
Genomes. 2nd edition.
Brown TA.
Oxford: Wiley-Liss; 2002.
Copyright © 2002, Garland Science.

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