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Nucleic Acids Res. 1994 Nov 25; 22(23): 4953–4957.
PMCID: PMC523762

Determination of the optimal aligned spacing between the Shine-Dalgarno sequence and the translation initiation codon of Escherichia coli mRNAs.


The prokaryotic mRNA ribosome binding site (RBS) usually contains part or all of a polypurine domain UAAGGAGGU known as the Shine-Dalgarno (SD) sequence found just 5' to the translation initiation codon. It is now clear that the SD sequence is important for identification of the translation initiation site on the mRNA by the ribosome, and that as a result, the spacing between the SD and the initiation codon strongly affects translational efficiency (1). It is not as clear, however, whether there is a unique optimal spacing. Complications involving the definition of the spacing as well as secondary structures have obscured matters. We thus undertook a systematic study by inserting two series of synthetic RBSs of varying spacing and SD sequence into a plasmid vector containing the chloramphenicol acetyltransferase gene. Care was taken not to introduce any secondary structure. Measurements of protein expression demonstrated an optimal aligned spacing of 5 nt for both series. Since aligned spacing corresponds naturally to the spacing between the 3'-end of the 16S rRNA and the P-site, we conclude that there is a unique optimal aligned SD-AUG spacing in the absence of other complicating issues.

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