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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Alternative secondary structures of leader RNAs and the regulation of the trp, phe, his, thr, and leu operons.

The trp, phe, his, thr, and leu operons of enteric bacteria are regulated by a transcriptional attenuation mechanism. Under conditions of amino acid sufficiency, transcription terminates at an attenuator site after a leader of about 150 nucleotides has been synthesized. Under conditions of limitation of a controlling amino acid, transcription continues past the attenuator into adjacent structural genes. As demonstrated by others, each of the five leader RNAs contains two regions of potential secondary structure which are partially overlapping. One of these regions occurs at the 3' terminus of the leader and is named the "terminator." The other region, which potentially can preclude the formation of the terminator, is named the "preemptor." Conditions that allow the preemptor to form result in derepression. We report here that the five published leader RNA sequences contain an additional potential region of secondary structure, which we call the "protector." The protector partially overlaps the preemptor in such a way that pairing of the former precludes pairing of the latter. For derepression to occur, a ribosome that is translating the leader must block the protector without blocking the preemptor, a condition that is met when the ribosome is arrested at the 3' end of a set of control codons. Including the protector in the model for attenuation explains why derepression of the operon does not result from the arrest of a ribosome at a codon preceding the control set. It also explains why termination is the outcome when transcription occurs in the absence of ribosomes. Finally, termination is the predicted outcome when unfettered translation of the leader RNA occurs, resulting in release of the ribosome at the translational stop signal.[1]


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