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Cell. 1993 Oct 8;75(1):147-54.

Bacteriophage T4 Alc protein: a transcription termination factor sensing local modification of DNA.

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Public Health Research Institute, New York, New York 10016.


Bacteriophage T4 Alc protein participates in shutting off host transcription after infection of E. coli. It is demonstrated that Alc acts as a site-specific termination factor. The Alc sites occur frequently in E. coli DNA, resulting in early cessation of elongation in several tested transcription units. Alc-dependent termination requires unimpeded propagation of the elongating complex as it approaches the Alc site. Temporary halting of RNA polymerase within 10-15 bp before the Alc site prevents termination. Bacteriophage T4 transcription is protected from the action of Alc by overall substitution of cytosine with 5-hydroxymethyl cytosine in T4 DNA. In vitro methylation of CpG sequences in the vicinity of an Alc site abolishes the effect of Alc. Thus, Alc-dependent termination involves local sensing of the state of cytosine modification and a short-term "memory" of recent pausing.

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