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J Bacteriol. 1995 Nov;177(22):6560-7.

Inhibition of translation initiation on Escherichia coli gnd mRNA by formation of a long-range secondary structure involving the ribosome binding site and the internal complementary sequence.

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Department of Biological Sciences, University of Maryland Baltimore County 21228, USA.


Previous research has indicated that the growth rate-dependent regulation of Escherichia coli gnd expression involves the internal complementary sequence (ICS), a negative control site that lies within the 6-phosphogluconate dehydrogenase coding sequence. To determine whether the ICS acts as a transcriptional operator or attenuator, we measured beta-galactosidase-specific activities in strains carrying gnd-lac operon and protein fusions containing or lacking the ICS. Whereas the presence of the ICS repressed beta-galactosidase expression from a protein fusion by 5-fold during growth on acetate and by 2.5-fold during growth on glucose, it had no effect on beta-galactosidase expression from an operon fusion. In vitro ribosome binding experiments employing the primer extension inhibition (toeprint) assay demonstrated that the presence of the ICS in gnd mRNA reduces both the maximum extent and the rate of ternary complex formation. Moreover, the effects of deletions scanning the ICS on in vivo gene expression were highly correlated with the effects of the deletions on ribosome binding in vitro. In addition, the distal end of the ICS element was found to contribute more to ICS function than did the proximal portion, which contains the complement to the Shine-Dalgarno sequence. Finally, RNA structure mapping experiments indicated that the presence of the ICS in gnd mRNA reduces the access of the nucleotides of the ribosome binding site to the single-strand-specific chemical reagents dimethyl sulfate and kethoxal. Taken together, these data support the hypothesis that the role of the ICS in the growth rate-dependent regulation of gnd expression is to sequester the translation initiation region into a long-range mRNA secondary structure that blocks ribosome binding and thereby reduces the frequency of translation initiation.

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