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Biochemistry. 1989 Oct 3;28(20):8067-72.

Mapping the lacZ ribosome binding site by RNA footprinting.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology, University of California, Los Angeles 90024-1489.


The ribosome binding site of the Escherichia coli lacZ mRNA has been characterized by using an RNA footprinting technique. Purified E. coli 70S ribosomes and fMet-tRNA were incubated with mRNA, and the complex was treated with RNA-reactive reagents or RNases as probes. The protected sites on the mRNA were then mapped by extending a radioactive primer with reverse transcriptase. Dimethyl sulfate, diethyl pyrocarbonate, and 1,10-phenanthroline-copper ion oxidative complex were used as reagent probes; they detected interaction sites within the ribosome binding site. A region of approximately 35 nucleotides was protected by the ribosome, specifically across the Shine-Dalgarno region, around the fMet initiation codon, and at a region 7-12 nucleotides distal to the fMet codon. In addition, an enhanced reaction occurred between the fMet codon and the distal site. These results imply an internally selective interaction between the ribosome and the mRNA sequence. The enhanced reactivity of a site distal to the initiation site--flanked by the AUG codon and a site previously identified as conserved in a study of initiation sequences--may indicate a region where the mRNA is specifically exposed.

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