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Mol Microbiol. 2002 Aug;45(3):697-710.

Action at a distance in CI repressor regulation of the bacteriophage 186 genetic switch.

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Department of Molecular Biosciences (Biochemistry), University of Adelaide, South Australia, Australia.


The non-lambdoid coliphage 186 provides an alternative model to the lytic-lysogenic switch of phage lambda. Like lambda, the key switch regulator, the CI repressor, associates to octamers. Unlike lambda, the lytic promoter (pR) and the lysogenic promoter (pL) are face-to-face, 62 bp apart and are flanked by distal CI binding sites (FL and FR) located approximately 300 bp away. Using reporter and footprinting studies, we show that the outcome, but not the mechanism, of regulation by 186 CI is very similar to lambda. 186 CI stimulates pL transcription indirectly by repressing convergent interfering transcription from pR. However, in the absence of the flanking FL and FR sites, CI bound at pR interacts co-operatively with a weak CI binding site at pL and represses both promoters. FL and FR play a critical role; they assist repression of pR and simultaneously alleviate repression of pL, thus allowing high pL activity. We propose that the 186 switch is regulated by a novel mechanism in which a CI octamer bound at pR forms alternative DNA loops to pL or to a flanking site, depending on CI concentration.

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