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J Bacteriol. 1989 Aug;171(8):4207-16.

Transcription mapping of the Escherichia coli chromosome by electron microscopy.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville 22901.


The distinctive double Christmas tree morphology of rRNA operons as visualized by electron microscopy makes them easy to recognize in chromatin spreads from Escherichia coli. On the basis of the pattern of nascent transcripts on nearby transcription units and the relative distances of the operons from one another and the replication origin, we are now able to specifically identify five of the seven rRNA operons in E. coli. The use of rRNA operons as markers of both position and distance has resulted in the morphological mapping of a significant portion of the E. coli chromosome; over 600 kilobase pairs in the 84- to 90-min and 72-min regions can now be recognized. Since individual rRNA operons could be identified, direct comparisons could be made of their transcriptional activities. As judged by the densities of RNA polymerases along the operons, rrnA, rrnB, rrnC, rrnD, and rrnE were all transcribed at similar levels, with one RNA polymerase every 85 base pairs. The ability to recognize individual operons and specific regions of the chromosome allows direct comparisons of various genetic parameters.

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