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J Bacteriol. 2005 Mar;187(5):1632-8.

Transcriptional polarity in rRNA operons of Escherichia coli nusA and nusB mutant strains.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Biology and Microbiology, Tufts University School of Medicine, 136 Harrison Ave., Boston, MA 02111, USA.


Synthesis of ribosomes in Escherichia coli requires an antitermination system that modifies RNA polymerase to achieve efficient transcription of the genes specifying 16S, 23S, and 5S rRNA. This modification requires nucleotide signals in the RNA and specific transcription factors, such as NusA and NusB. Transcription of rrn operons in strains lacking the ability to produce either NusA or NusB was examined by electron microscopy. The distribution and numbers of RNA polymerase molecules on rrn operons were determined for each mutant. Compared to the wild type, the 16S gene in the nusB mutant strain had an equivalent number of RNA polymerase molecules, but the number of RNA polymerase molecules was reduced 1.4-fold for the nusA mutant. For both mutant strains, there were twofold-fewer RNA polymerase molecules on the 23S RNA gene than for the wild type. Overall, the mutant strains each had 1.6-fold-fewer RNA polymerase molecules on their rrn operons than did the wild type. To determine if decreased transcription of the 23S gene observed by electron microscopy also affected the 30S/50S ribosomal subunit ratio, ribosome profiles were examined by sucrose gradient analysis. The 30S/50S ratio increased 2.5- to 3-fold for the nus mutant strains over that for wild-type cells. Thus, strains carrying either a nusA mutation or a nusB mutation have defects in transcription of 23S rRNA.

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