Functional analysis of lac repressor restart sites in translational initiation and reinitiation.
To define some of the features that influence ribosomal recognition of translational restart sites in the lac repressor mRNA, recombinant DNA methods have been used to construct lacI-Z fusions in which lacZ gene expression is dependent upon initiation or reinitiation within lacI mRNA sequences. Reinitiation efficiencies, as assessed by beta-galactosidase levels in strains bearing such plasmids, appear to be determined by at least three features of the RNA between the termination codon and reinitiation codon: the presence of competing out-of-frame AUG or GUG triplets, the distance between termination and reinitiation points, and the extent to which restart sequences remain accessible to ribosomes. While some of the restart sites are used with substantial efficiency for reinitiation, they do not function detectably as primary initiators if placed at the 5' end of the lacZ mRNA. This finding concurs with our observation that relative to the wild-type initiator region, which is recovered in quantitative yield from in vitro initiation reactions, ribosome protection of the four restart sites occurs at more than 100-fold lower efficiencies. In part, the lack of initiation activity is rationalized by the striking potential these sequences have for forming stable secondary structures that sequester elements essential for ribosome binding. However, the differential functioning of the restart sites in primary initiation versus reinitiation must also reflect real differences in the mechanisms operative in the two events.
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