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J Bacteriol. 2010 Nov;192(21):5580-7. doi: 10.1128/JB.00338-10. Epub 2010 Aug 20.

A mutation within the β subunit of Escherichia coli RNA polymerase impairs transcription from bacteriophage T4 middle promoters.

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Gene Expression and Regulation Section, Laboratory of Molecular and Cellular Biology, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892-0830, USA.


During infection of Escherichia coli, bacteriophage T4 usurps the host transcriptional machinery, redirecting it to the expression of early, middle, and late phage genes. Middle genes, whose expression begins about 1 min postinfection, are transcribed both from the extension of early RNA into middle genes and by the activation of T4 middle promoters. Middle-promoter activation requires the T4 transcriptional activator MotA and coactivator AsiA, which are known to interact with σ(70), the specificity subunit of RNA polymerase. T4 motA amber [motA(Am)] or asiA(Am) phage grows poorly in wild-type E. coli. However, previous work has found that T4 motA(Am)does not grow in the E. coli mutant strain TabG. We show here that the RNA polymerase in TabG contains two mutations within its β-subunit gene: rpoB(E835K) and rpoB(G1249D). We find that the G1249D mutation is responsible for restricting the growth of either T4 motA(Am)or asiA(Am) and for impairing transcription from MotA/AsiA-activated middle promoters in vivo. With one exception, transcription from tested T4 early promoters is either unaffected or, in some cases, even increases, and there is no significant growth phenotype for the rpoB(E835K G1249D) strain in the absence of T4 infection. In reported structures of thermophilic RNA polymerase, the G1249 residue is located immediately adjacent to a hydrophobic pocket, called the switch 3 loop. This loop is thought to aid in the separation of the RNA from the DNA-RNA hybrid as RNA enters the RNA exit channel. Our results suggest that the presence of MotA and AsiA may impair the function of this loop or that this portion of the β subunit may influence interactions among MotA, AsiA, and RNA polymerase.

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