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Influence of the sequence-dependent flexure of DNA on transcription in E. coli.

  • Collis, C M
  • Molloy, P L
  • Both, G W
  • Drew, H R
Published Article
Nucleic acids research
Publication Date
Nov 25, 1989
PMID: 2685760


In order to study the effects of DNA structure on cellular processes such as transcription, we have made a series of plasmids that locate several different kinds of DNA structure (stiff, flexible or curved) near the sites of cleavage by commonly-used restriction enzymes. One can use these plasmids to place any DNA region of interest (e.g., promoter, operator or enhancer) close to certain kinds of DNA structure that may influence its ability to work in a living cell. In the present example, we have placed a promoter from T7 virus next to the special DNA structures; the T7 promoter is then linked to a gene for a marker protein (chloramphenicol acetyl transferase). When plasmids bearing the T7 promoter are grown in cells of E. coli that contain T7 RNA polymerase, the special DNA structures seem to have little or no influence over the activity of the T7 promoter, contrary to our expectations. Yet when the same plasmids are grown in cells of E. coli that do not contain T7 RNA polymerase, some of the DNA structures show a surprising promoter activity of their own. In particular, the favourable flexibility or curvature of DNA, in the close vicinity of potential -35 and -10 promoter regions, seems to be a significant factor in determining where E. coli RNA polymerase starts RNA chains. We show directly, in one example, that loss of curvature between -35 and -10 regions is associated with a nearly-complete loss of promoter activity. These results, and others of their kind, show that the structural and/or vibrational properties of DNA play a much more important role in determining E. coli promoter activity than has previously been supposed.

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