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Nucleic Acids Res. 1996 Jul 15;24(14):2673-8.

Is the in-frame termination signal of the Escherichia coli release factor-2 frameshift site weakened by a particularly poor context?

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.


The synthesis of release factor-2 (RF-2) in bacteria is regulated by a high efficiency +1 frameshifting event at an in-frame UGA stop codon. The stop codon does not specify the termination of synthesis efficiently because of several upstream stimulators for frameshifting. This study focusses on whether the particular context of the stop codon within the frameshift site of the Escherichia coli RF-2 mRNA contributes to the poor efficiency of termination. The context of UGA in this recoding site is rare at natural termination sites in E.coli genes. We have evaluated how the three nucleotides downstream from the stop codon (+4, +5 and +6 positions) in the native UGACUA sequence affect the competitiveness of the termination codon against the frameshifting event. Changing the C in the +4 position and, separately, the A in the +6 position significantly increase the termination signal strength at the frameshift site, whereas the nucleotide in the +5 position had little influence. The efficiency of particular termination signals as a function of the +4 or +6 nucleotides correlates with how often they occur at natural termination sites in E.coli; strong signals occur more frequently and weak signals are less common.

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