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Genes Cells. 1999 Feb;4(2):87-97.

Regulation of intrinsic terminator by translation in Escherichia coli: transcription termination at a distance downstream.

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Department of Molecular Biology, Graduate School of Science, Nagoya University, Chikusa, Nagoya 464-8602, Japan.



Rho-independent terminators in Escherichia coli are DNA sequences of 30-50 bp consisting of a GC-rich dyad symmetry sequence followed by a run of T residues in the nontemplate strand. The transcription termination at the Rho-independent terminator occurs within the T-tract in vitro. It has been believed that the transcription termination at the Rho-independent terminator occurs within the T-tract in vivo, as established in vitro, and therefore the 3' ends of mRNAs are mostly generated as a direct result of transcription termination. However, how the transcription termination occurs and how the 3' ends of mRNAs are formed in living cells remains to be studied.


We developed a double terminator system in which a second Rho-independent terminator was placed downstream of the crp terminator. This system made it possible to detect transcripts that pass through the crp terminator by Northern blotting. We found that most of the crp transcripts extend beyond the crp terminator. The transcriptional read-through at the crp terminator was reduced when the translation of crp mRNA was interrupted. The level of the read-through transcript decreased with distance between the two terminators, suggesting that transcription termination occurs at multiple positions beyond the crp terminator.


We conclude that most RNA polymerase reads through the crp terminator in the natural situation and terminates transcription over a wide region downstream of the crp terminator, resulting in heterogeneous primary transcripts that are subsequently processed back to the terminator hairpin. We propose that ribosome translation to the crp stop codon causes read-through of the terminator. The regulatory effect of translation on Rho-independent termination may be a general phenomenon at other operons.

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