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Appl Environ Microbiol. 1998 Jan;64(1):82-7.

The sequence of spacers between the consensus sequences modulates the strength of prokaryotic promoters.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology, Technical University of Denmark, Lyngby, Denmark.


We constructed a library of synthetic promoters for Lactococcus lactis in which the known consensus sequences were kept constant while the sequences of the separating spacers were randomized. The library consists of 38 promoters which differ in strength from 0.3 up to more than 2,000 relative units, the latter among the strongest promoters known for this organism. The ranking of the promoter activities was somewhat different when assayed in Escherichia coli, but the promoters are efficient for modulating gene expression in this bacterium as well. DNA sequencing revealed that the weaker promoters (which had activities below 5 relative units) all had changes either in the consensus sequences or in the length of the spacer between the -35 and -10 sequences. The promoters in which those features were conserved had activities from 5 to 2,050 U, which shows that by randomizing the spacers, at least a 400-fold change in activity can be obtained. Interestingly, the entire range of promoter activities is covered in small steps of activity increase, which makes these promoters very suitable for quantitative physiological studies and for fine-tuning of gene expression in industrial bioreactors and cell factories.

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