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J Mol Biol. 1990 Sep 5;215(1):21-9.

Discrimination between bacteriophage T3 and T7 promoters by the T3 and T7 RNA polymerases depends primarily upon a three base-pair region located 10 to 12 base-pairs upstream from the start site.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Morse Institute of Molecular Genetics, SUNY-Health Science Center, Brooklyn 11203-2098.


The bacteriophage T3 and T7 RNA polymerases are closely related, yet are highly specific for their own promoter sequences. To understand the basis of this specificity, T7 promoter variant that contain substitutions of T3-specific base-pairs at one or more positions within the T7 promoter consensus sequence were synthesized and cloned. Template competition assays between variant and consensus promoters demonstrate that the primary determinants of promoter specificity are located in the region from -10 to -12, and that the base-pair at -11 is of particular importance. Changing this base-pair from G.C, which is normally present in T7 promoters, to C.G, which is found at this position in T3 promoters, prevented utilization by the T7 RNA polymerase and simultaneously enabled transcription from the variant T7 promoter by the T3 enzyme. Substitution of T7 base-pairs with T3 base-pairs at other positions where the two consensus sequences diverge affected the overall efficiency with which the variant promoter was utilized by the T7 RNA polymerase, but these changes were not sufficient to permit recognition by the T3 RNA polymerase. Switching the -11 base-pair in the T3 promoter consensus to the T7 base-pair prevented utilization by the T3 RNA polymerase, but did not allow the T3 variant promoter to be utilized by the T7 RNA polymerase. This probably reflects a greater specificity of the T7 RNA polymerase for base-pairs at other positions where the promoter sequences differ, most notably at -15. The magnitude of the effects of base substitutions in the T7 promoter on promoter strength (-11C much greater than -10C greater than -12A) correlates with the affinity of the T7 polymerase for the promoter variants, suggesting that the discrimination of the phage RNA polymerases for their promoters is mediated primarily at the level of DNA binding, rather than at the level of initiation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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