The lysogeny promoting protein CII from bacteriophage 186 is a potent transcriptional activator, capable of mediating at least a 400-fold increase in transcription over basal activity. Despite being functionally similar to its counterpart in phage ?, it shows no homology at the level of protein sequence and does not belong to any known family of transcriptional activators. It also has the unusual property of binding DNA half-sites that are separated by 20 base pairs, center to center. Here we investigate the structural and functional properties of CII using a combination of genetics, in vitro assays, and mutational analysis. We find that 186 CII possesses two functional domains, with an independent activation epitope in each. 186 CII owes its potent activity to activation mechanisms that are dependent on both the ?(70) and ? C-terminal domain (?CTD) components of RNA polymerase, contacting different functional domains. We also present evidence that like ? CII, 186 CII is proteolytically degraded in vivo, but unlike ? CII, 186 CII proteolysis results in a specific, transcriptionally inactive, degradation product with altered self-association properties.
Genomic DNA is bound by many proteins that could potentially impede elongation of RNA polymerase (RNAP), but the factors determining the magnitude of transcriptional roadblocking in vivo are poorly understood. Through systematic experiments and modeling, we analyse how roadblocking by the lac repressor (LacI) in Escherichia coli cells is controlled by promoter firing rate, the concentration and affinity of the roadblocker protein, the transcription-coupled repair protein Mfd, and promoter-roadblock spacing. Increased readthrough of the roadblock at higher RNAP fluxes requires active dislodgement of LacI by multiple RNAPs. However, this RNAP cooperation effect occurs only for strong promoters because roadblock-paused RNAP is quickly terminated by Mfd. The results are most consistent with a single RNAP also sometimes dislodging LacI, though we cannot exclude the possibility that a single RNAP reads through by waiting for spontaneous LacI dissociation. Reducing the occupancy of the roadblock site by increasing the LacI off-rate (weakening the operator) increased dislodgement strongly, giving a stronger effect on readthrough than decreasing the LacI on-rate (decreasing LacI concentration). Thus, protein binding kinetics can be tuned to maintain site occupation while reducing detrimental roadblocking.
Elongating RNA polymerases (RNAPs) can interfere with transcription from downstream promoters by inhibiting DNA binding by RNAP and activators. However, combining quantitative measurement with mathematical modeling, we show that simple RNAP elongation cannot produce the strong asymmetric interference observed between a natural face-to-face promoter pair in bacteriophage lambda. Pausing of elongating polymerases over the RNAP-binding site of the downstream promoter is demonstrated in vivo and is shown by modeling to account for the increased interference. The model successfully predicts the effects on interference of treatments increasing or reducing pausing. Gene regulation by pausing-enhanced occlusion provides a general and potentially widespread mechanism by which even weak converging or tandem transcription, either coding or noncoding, can bring about strong in cis repression.
The Cox protein of the coliphage P2 is multifunctional; it acts as a transcriptional repressor of the Pc promoter, as a transcriptional activator of the P(LL) promoter of satellite phage P4, and as a directionality factor for site-specific recombination. The Cox proteins constitute a unique group of directionality factors since they couple the developmental switch with the integration or excision of the phage genome. In this work, the DNA binding characteristics of the Cox protein of WPhi, a P2-related phage, are compared with those of P2 Cox. P2 Cox has been shown to recognize a 9 bp sequence, repeated at least 6 times in different targets. In contrast to P2 Cox, WPhi Cox binds with a strong affinity to the early control region that contains an imperfect direct repeat of 12 nucleotides. The removal of one of the repeats has drastic effects on the capacity of WPhi to bind to the Pe-Pc region. Again in contrast to P2 Cox, WPhi Cox has a lower affinity to attP compared to the Pe-Pc region, and a repeat of 9 bp can be found that has 5 bp in common with the repeat in the Pe-Pc region. WPhi Cox, however, is essential for excisive recombination in vitro. WPhi Cox, like P2 Cox, binds cooperatively with integrase to attP. Both Cox proteins induce a strong bend in their DNA targets upon binding.
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