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EMBO J. 1992 Mar;11(3):1065-73.

A conserved 11 nucleotide sequence contains an essential promoter element of the maize mitochondrial atp1 gene.

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Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853.


To determine the structure of a functional plant mitochondrial promoter, we have partially purified an RNA polymerase activity that correctly initiates transcription at the maize mitochondrial atp1 promoter in vitro. Using a series of 5' deletion constructs, we found that essential sequences are located within--19 nucleotides (nt) of the transcription initiation site. The region surrounding the initiation site includes conserved sequence motifs previously proposed to be maize mitochondrial promoter elements. Deletion of a conserved 11 nt sequence showed that it is critical for promoter function, but deletion or alteration of conserved upstream G(A/T)3-4 repeats had no effect. When the atp1 11 nt sequence was inserted into different plasmids lacking mitochondrial promoter activity, transcription was only observed for one of these constructs. We infer from these data that the functional promoter extends beyond this motif, most likely in the 5' direction. The maize mitochondrial cox3 and atp6 promoters also direct transcription initiation in this in vitro system, suggesting that it may be widely applicable for studies of mitochondrial transcription in this species.

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