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Gene. 1989 May 15;78(1):59-72.

The role of bases upstream of the Shine-Dalgarno region and in the coding sequence in the control of gene expression in Escherichia coli: translation and stability of mRNAs in vivo.

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Department of Microbiology, GBF-Gesellschaft für Biotechnologische Forschung mbH., Braunschweig, F.R.G.


A range of translational initiation regions (TIR) was created by combining synthetic DNA fragments derived from the atpB-atpE intercistronic sequence of Escherichia coli with the cDNA sequence encoding mature human interleukin 2 (IL-2), the E. coli fnr gene, or an fnr::lacZ gene fusion. Both the overall rates of gene expression and the relative concentrations and stabilities of the corresponding mRNA species were estimated in strains bearing the constructs on plasmids. These measurements served as the basis for analyses of the relationship between the structure of the TIR and the true rates of translation that it promotes. The constructs involving the IL-2 cDNA were predicted to allow much less stable secondary structure within the TIR than those involving the N-terminal region of the fnr gene. Thus by combining one set of upstream sequences with two different types of N-terminal coding sequence, it was possible to distinguish between the respective influences of primary and secondary structure upon initiation. The data indicate that in the presence of a given Shine-Dalgarno (SD)/start codon combination, the decisive factor for translational initiation efficiency is the stability of base pairing involving, or in the vicinity of, this region. The sequences contributing to this secondary structure can be many bases upstream of the SD region and/or downstream of the start codon. There was no indication that the specific base sequence upstream of the SD region could, other than to the extent that it contributed to the local secondary structure, significantly influence the efficiency of translational initiation.

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