Expression of the Bacillus subtilis trpEDCFBA operon is influenced by translational coupling and rho termination factor

H. Yakhnin, J. E. Babiarz, A. V. Yakhnin, P. Babitzke

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41 Scopus citations


The trp RNA-binding attenuation protein (TRAP) regulates expression of the Bacillus subtilis trpEDCFBA operon by transcription attenuation and translational control mechanisms. Both mechanisms require binding of tryptophan-activated TRAP to 11 (G/U)AG repeats in the trp leader transcript, trpE translational control involves formation of a TRAP-dependent RNA structure that sequesters the trpE Shine-Dalgarno (SD) sequence (the SD blocking hairpin). By comparing expression levels from trpE'-'lacZ translational fusions controlled by the wild-type leader or by a leader that cannot form the SD blocking hairpin, we found that translational control requires a tryptophan concentration higher than that required for transcription attenuation. We also found that inhibition of trpE translation by the SD blocking hairpin does not alter the stability of the downstream message. Since the coding sequences for trpE and trpD overlap by 29 nucleotides, we examined expression levels from trpED'-'lacZ translational fusions to determine if these two genes are translationally coupled. We found that introduction of a UAA stop codon in trpE resulted in a substantial reduction in expression. Since expression was partially restored in the presence of a tRNA suppressor, our results indicate that trpE and trpD are translationally coupled. We determined that the coupling mechanism is TRAP independent and that formation of the SD blocking hairpin regulates trpD translation via translational coupling. We also constructed a rho mutation to investigate the role of Rho-dependent termination in trp operon expression. We found that TRAP-dependent formation of the SD blocking hairpin allows Rho access to the nascent transcript, causing transcriptional polarity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5918-5926
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of bacteriology
Issue number20
StatePublished - 2001

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology


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