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Nucleic Acids Res. 1990 Jun 25;18(12):3529-35.

Transcriptional slippage occurs during elongation at runs of adenine or thymine in Escherichia coli.

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Department of Human Genetics, University of Utah, Salt Lake City 84132.


A run of 11 adenine or thymine residues at the 5' end of an out-of-frame lacZ gene causes a high level of beta-galactosidase expression in E. coli. This effect was not observed for a run of guanine residues. Reverse transcription of mRNA isolated from E. coli containing the run of 11 A's reveals heterogeneity of transcript length while reverse transcription of mRNA isolated from S. cerevisiae containing the same gene shows no heterogeneity. Protein sequencing of the beta-galactosidase molecules derived from the out-of-frame construct containing a run of adenines reveals the addition of a lysine at the run. A new method was developed where messages small enough to allow resolution of single nucleotide differences on an acrylamide gel are electrophoresed, electroblotted onto nylon and probed. This confirmed the reverse transcription results and showed that additional residues can be added to transcripts derived from DNA containing 10 or 11 thymine residues. A mechanism for slippage is discussed where the A-U rich RNA-DNA hybrid can denature during elongation and rehybridize in an offset position, causing the addition of extra residues to the transcript.

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