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J Mol Biol. 1994 Aug 26;241(4):507-23.

Identification of high affinity binding sites for LexA which define new DNA damage-inducible genes in Escherichia coli.

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Laboratory of Molecular Genetics, National Institutes of Health, NIEHS Research Triangle Park, NC 27709.


A multi-step screening procedure was devised to identify new operators for the LexA repressor in the sequenced portions of the genomes of Escherichia coli and its plasmids and bacteriophages. Sequence analysis methods were employed initially to distinguish true LexA operators from "operator-like" sequences stored within the GenBank and EMBL databases. The affinity of purified LexA protein for cloned DNA fragments containing several of the prospective new sites was then assessed using quantitative electrophoretic mobility shift assays and site-directed mutagenesis. Calculated binding affinities were compared directly with values determined for known and mutant LexA operators in concurrent experiments. Three E. coli chromosomal segments (near pyrC, hsdS and ntrla) and two bacteriophage sequences (near the P1 cre and lambda oop genes) bound LexA protein specifically. These sites and most others identified in the screening are located immediately upstream of known genes and/or large open reading frames. These results and additional transcription data demonstrate that several of the sequences define new DNA damage-inducible (din) genes and include the previously uncharacterized dinD locus. Furthermore, the search identified an SOS gene within the genome of P1 which encodes a protein that is homologous to UmuD', the RecA-promoted cleavage product of the umuD gene. The success of the combinatorial approach described here suggests that analogous searches for new regulatory sequences within the E. coli genome and the genomes of other organisms will also yield favorable results.

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