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Nucleic Acids Res. Sep 15, 1999; 27(18): 3690–3695.
PMCID: PMC148624

Repression of IS200 transposase synthesis by RNA secondary structures.


The IS 200 transposase, a 16 kDa polypeptide encoded by the single open reading frame (ORF) of the insertion element, has been identified using an expression system based on T7 RNA polymerase. In wild-type IS 200, two sets of internal inverted repeats that generate RNA secondary structures provide two independent mechanisms for repression of transposase synthesis. The inverted repeat located near the left end of IS 200 is a transcriptional terminator that terminates read-through transcripts before they reach the IS 200 ORF. The terminator is functional in both directions and may terminate >80% of transcripts. Another control operates at the translational level: transposase synthesis is inhibited by occlusion of the ribosome-binding site (RBS) of the IS 200 ORF. The RBS (5'-AGGGG-3') is occluded by formation of a mRNA stem-loop structure whose 3' end is located only 3 nt upstream of the start codon. This mechanism reduces transposase synthesis approximately 10-fold. Primer extension experiments with AMV reverse transcriptase have provided evidence that this stem-loop RNA structure is actually formed. Tight repression of transposase synthesis, achieved through synergistic mechanisms of negative control, may explain the unusually low transposition frequency of IS 200.

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