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EMBO J. 1995 Sep 1;14(17):4329-35.

RNA polymerase alpha subunit binding site in positively controlled promoters: a new model for RNA polymerase-promoter interaction and transcriptional activation in the Escherichia coli ada and aidB genes.

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Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester 01655, USA.


The ada and aidB genes are part of the adaptive response to DNA methylation damage in Escherichia coli. Transcription of the ada and the aidB genes is triggered by binding of the methylated Ada protein (meAda) to a specific sequence located 40-60 base pairs upstream of the transcriptional start, which is internal to an A/T-rich region. In this report we demonstrate that the Ada binding site is also a binding site for RNA polymerase. RNA polymerase is able to bind the -40 to -60 region of the ada and the aidB promoters in the absence of meAda, and its binding is mediated by the alpha subunit. This region resembles the UP element of the rrnB P1 promoter in location, sequence and mechanism of interaction with RNA polymerase. We discuss the function of UP-like elements in positively controlled promoters and provide evidence that Ada does not act by enhancing RNA polymerase binding affinity to the promoter region. Instead, Ada stimulates transcription by modifying the nature of the RNA polymerase-promoter interaction, allowing RNA polymerase to recognize the core promoter -35 and -10 elements in addition to the UP-like element.

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