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Bioessays. 2003 Mar;25(3):274-82.

AraC protein: a love-hate relationship.

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Biology Department, Johns Hopkins University, 3400 N. Charles St. Baltimore, MD 21218, USA.


In the bacterium Escherichia coli, the AraC protein positively and negatively regulates expression of the proteins required for the uptake and catabolism of the sugar L-arabinose. This essay describes how work from my laboratory on this system spanning more than thirty years has aided our understanding of positive regulation, revealed DNA looping (a mechanism that explains many action-at-a-distance phenomena) and, more recently, has uncovered the mechanism by which arabinose shifts AraC from a state where it prefers to bind to two well-separated DNA half-sites and form a DNA loop to a state where it binds to two adjacent half-sites and activates transcription. This work required learning how to assay, purify, and work with a protein possessing highly uncooperative biochemical properties. Present work is focussed on understanding arabinose-responsive mechanism in atomic detail and is also directed towards understanding protein structure and function well enough to be able to engineer the allosteric mechanism seen in AraC onto other proteins.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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