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J Biol Chem. 1998 Aug 14;273(33):21298-308.

Activation of gene expression by a novel DNA structural transmission mechanism that requires supercoiling-induced DNA duplex destabilization in an upstream activating sequence.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, College of Medicine, University of California, Irvine, California 92697, USA.


We have previously demonstrated that integration host factor (IHF)-mediated activation of transcription from the ilvPG promoter of Escherichia coli requires a supercoiled DNA template and occurs in the absence of specific interactions between IHF and RNA polymerase. In this report, we describe a novel, supercoiling-dependent, DNA structural transmission mechanism for this activation. We provide theoretical evidence for a supercoiling-induced DNA duplex destabilized (SIDD) structure in the A + T-rich, ilvPG regulatory region between base pair positions +1 and -160. We show that the region of this SIDD sequence immediately upstream of an IHF binding site centered at base pair position -92 is, in fact, destabilized by superhelical stress and that this duplex destabilization is inhibited by IHF binding. Thus, in the presence of IHF, the negative superhelical twist normally absorbed by this DNA structure in the promoter distal half of the SIDD sequence is transferred to the downstream portion of the SIDD sequence containing the ilvPG promoter site. This IHF-mediated translocation of superhelical energy facilitates duplex destabilization in the -10 region of the downstream ilvPG promoter and activates transcription by increasing the rate of open complex formation.

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