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EMBO J. 1988 Dec 1;7(12):4011-7.

A threonine to alanine exchange at position 40 of Tet repressor alters the recognition of the sixth base pair of tet operator from GC to AT.

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Lehrstuhl für Mikrobiologie, Institut für Mikrobiologie und Biochemie der Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, FRG.


The tet operators of two naturally evolved tetracycline resistance determinants differ by a G.C to A.T transition at the sixth base pair. This mutation prevents heterologous recognition of these tet operators by their respective two Tet repressor proteins. The amino acid side chains responsible for this sequence-specific distinction of operators were determined. For this purpose in vitro recombinants of the two tetR genes were constructed. Restriction sites were introduced by oligonucleotide-directed mutagenesis in both genes followed by the exchange of different coding segments between them. The encoded chimeric Tet repressor proteins were expressed and their operator recognition specificity was scored in vivo. Exchanging gradually smaller coding segments led finally to a single amino acid exchange in both genes at position 40 of the primary structures. Each Tet repressor containing Thr at this position recognizes the G.C operator while those with Ala recognize the A.T operator regardless of the rest of the sequences. This result demonstrates clearly that the amino acid 40 of Tet repressor contacts and recognizes base pair 6 of tet operator. Sterical interference of the large Thr side chain with the methyl group of A.T and a possible involvement of the hydroxyl in hydrogen bonding to the operator are discussed as the molecular basis of this differentiation between A.T and G.C base pairs.

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