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J Bacteriol. 2008 Jun;190(12):4263-71. doi: 10.1128/JB.00059-08. Epub 2008 Apr 18.

Bacteriophage P22 antitermination boxB sequence requirements are complex and overlap with those of lambda.

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  • 1Department of Biology, American University of Beirut, Riad El Solh 1107 2020, Beirut, Lebanon.


Transcription antitermination in phages lambda and P22 uses N proteins that bind to similar boxB RNA hairpins in regulated transcripts. In contrast to the lambda N-boxB interaction, the P22 N-boxB interaction has not been extensively studied. A nuclear magnetic resonance structure of the P22 N peptide boxB(left) complex and limited mutagenesis have been reported but do not reveal a consensus sequence for boxB. We have used a plasmid-based antitermination system to screen boxBs with random loops and to test boxB mutants. We find that P22 N requires boxB to have a GNRA-like loop with no simple requirements on the remaining sequences in the loop or stem. U:A or A:U base pairs are strongly preferred adjacent to the loop and appear to modulate N binding in cooperation with the loop and distal stem. A few GNRA-like hexaloops have moderate activity. Some boxB mutants bind P22 and lambda N, indicating that the requirements imposed on boxB by P22 N overlap those imposed by lambda N. Point mutations can dramatically alter boxB specificity between P22 and lambda N. A boxB specific for P22 N can be mutated to lambda N specificity by a series of single mutations via a bifunctional intermediate, as predicted by neutral theories of evolution.

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