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Biochimie. 1996;78(11-12):1017-24.

Some novel transcription attenuation mechanisms used by bacteria.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Stanford University, CA 94305, USA.


A variety of transcription attenuation mechanisms are used by bacteria to regulate gene and operon expression. This review summarizes previous and current studies designed to elucidate the features of the specific attenuation mechanisms that regulate expression of the tryptophanase (tna) operon of Escherichia coli and the tryptophan (trp) operon of Bacillus subtilis. Initiation of transcription in the tna operon is regulated by catabolite repression. Once initiated, transcription is regulated by tryptophan-induced inhibition of Rho-mediated transcription termination in the leader region of the operon. An operon-encoded leader peptide, TnaC, containing a crucial tryptophan residue, plays an essential role in induction. This peptide appears to act in cis on the ribosome translating tnaC to inhibit its release at the tnaC stop codon. The stalled ribosome would block Rho's access to the tna transcript, thereby preventing termination. Transcription of the trp operon of B subtilis is regulated by an attenuation mechanism that responds to a tryptophan-activated eleven subunit RNA-binding regulatory protein, called TRAP. Activated TRAP binds to repeated GAG sequences in the leader segment of the trp operon transcript, disrupting an RNA antiterminator and promoting formation of a terminator. Activated TRAP also regulates translation of trpG in the folate operon by binding to repeat GAG sequences surrounding the trpG ribosome binding site. A temperature sensitive tryptophanyl-tRNA synthetase (trpS) mutant was previously observed to overexpress the trp operon and trpG, when grown at elevated temperatures in the presence of tryptophan. We have found that the trpS defect increases trp operon and trpG expression by interfering with TRAP's ability to act. We suggest that either accumulation of uncharged tRNA(Trp) or overproduction of a TRAP-binding transcript reduces the level of functional TRAP in the trpS mutant.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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