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Mol Microbiol. 1990 Jul;4(7):1063-7.

Translation initiation in Escherichia coli: old and new questions.

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Laboratoire de Génétique Moléculaire (CNRS D 1302), Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris, France.


We discuss the features of Escherichia coli mRNAs which determine where and how efficiently translation is initiated. We have shown that DNA fragments comprising 60-80 nucleotides that bracket the initiation codon of real genes generally promote translation when inserted within a foreign mRNA, while those not corresponding to an authentic gene start do not do so even if they include a Shine-Dalgarno-like element followed by AUG or GUG. Therefore, the information that pinpoints the correct start sites, while extending beyond the mere presence of these elements, remains essentially local. The possible nature of this information is discussed. Next, we point out that, in order to remain accessible, translational starts must escape long-range base-pairing within large mRNAs, and we argue that the tight coupling between translation and transcription plays an important role in achieving this. Finally, we discuss two intriguing situations in which the initiation frequency should be dependent upon the rate of translation elongation.

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