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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Sep 1985; 82(17): 5656–5660.
PMCID: PMC390610

Translational efficiency of the Escherichia coli adenylate cyclase gene: mutating the UUG initiation codon to GUG or AUG results in increased gene expression.

Abstract

Roy et al. [Roy, A., Haziza, C. & Danchin, A. (1983) EMBO J. 2, 791-797] established that translation of Escherichia coli adenylate cyclase initiates at a UUG codon, and they suggested this might decrease the efficiency of translation. We investigated the effect of varying the initiation codon on the expression of the adenylate cyclase (cya) gene. Using oligonucleotide-directed mutagenesis, we changed the UUG initiation codon to GUG and the more common initiator AUG and assayed for cya gene expression in a number of ways. First, the GUG initiation codon, in place of UUG, doubled cya expression when cya was expressed from the dual cya P1/P2 promoters. The corresponding AUG codon construct was nonviable. Second, when the cya gene was placed under the transcriptional control of the thermoinducible phage lambda PL promoter, the relative amounts of cya gene product were 1:2:6 for the UUG, GUG, and AUG initiation codons, respectively. Finally, the cya P2 promoter, Shine-Dalgarno sequence, and the DNA corresponding to the first 86 codons of cya were fused to DNA encoding the E. coli galactokinase gene beginning at the second codon. The relative amounts of the fusion polypeptides, which had galactokinase activity, were 1:2:3 for the UUG, GUG, and AUG initiation codons, respectively. These results demonstrate that the cya UUG initiation codon limits cya expression at the level of translation.

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