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J Mol Biol. 2001 Jun 1;309(2):347-60.

Leaderless transcripts of the crenarchaeal hyperthermophile Pyrobaculum aerophilum.

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Department of Microbiology, Molecular Biology Institute, University of Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.


We mapped transcription start sites for ten unrelated protein-encoding Pyrobaculum aerophilum genes by primer extension and S(1) nuclease mapping. All of the mapped transcripts start at the computationally predicted translation start codons, two of which were supported by N-terminal protein sequencing. A whole genome computational analysis of the regions from -50 to +50 nt around the predicted translation starts codons revealed a clear upstream pattern matching the consensus sequence of the archaeal TATA box located unusually close to the translation starts. For genes with the TATA boxes that best matched the consensus sequence, the distance between the TATA box and the translation start codon appears to be shorter than 30 nt. Two other promoter elements distinguished were also found unusually close to the translation start codons: a transcription initiator element with significant elevation of C and T frequencies at the -1 position and a BRE element with more frequent A bases at position -29 to -32 (counting from the translation start site). We also show that one of the mapped genes is transcribed as the first gene of an operon. For a set of genes likely to be internal in operons the upstream signal extracted by computer analysis was a Shine-Dalgarno pattern matching the complementary sequence of P. aerophilum 16 S rRNA. Together these results suggest that the translation of proteins encoded by single genes or genes that are first in operons in the hyperthermophilic crenarchaeon P. aerophilum proceeds mostly, if not exclusively, through leaderless transcripts. Internal genes in operons are likely to undergo translation via a mechanism that is facilitated by ribosome binding to the Shine-Dalgarno sequence.

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