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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1991 Mar 15; 88(6): 2461–2465.

TTA codons in some genes prevent their expression in a class of developmental, antibiotic-negative, Streptomyces mutants.


In Streptomyces coelicolor A3(2) and the related species Streptomyces lividans 66, aerial mycelium formation and antibiotic production are blocked by mutations in bldA, which specifies a tRNA(Leu)-like gene product which would recognize the UUA codon. Here we show that phenotypic expression of three disparate genes (carB, lacZ, and ampC) containing TTA codons depends strongly on bldA. Site-directed mutagenesis of carB, changing its two TTA codons to CTC (leucine) codons, resulted in bldA-independent expression; hence the bldA product is the principal tRNA for the UUA codon. Two other genes (hyg and aad) containing TTA codons show a medium-dependent reduction in phenotypic expression (hygromycin resistance and spectinomycin resistance, respectively) in bldA mutants. For hyg, evidence is presented that the UUA codon is probably being translated by a tRNA with an imperfectly matched anticodon, giving very low levels of gene product but relatively high resistance to hygromycin. It is proposed that TTA codons may be generally absent from genes expressed during vegetative growth and from the structural genes for differentiation and antibiotic production but present in some regulatory and resistance genes associated with the latter processes. The codon may therefore play a role in developmental regulation.

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