Bacterial Transcription Regulation


Escherichia coli and possibly all other bacteria regulate transcription predominantly at the stage of initiation by repressors and/or activators.

Keywords: activation; activator; local concentration; β‐galactosidase; Lac permease; Escherichia coli; cyclic AMP; CAP protein; FNR protein; ONPG; IPTG; operator; repressor; inducer

Figure 1.

The lac operator.

Figure 2.

Model of Lac repressor. (a) The lac system. (b) (1) The lac promoter region. (2) Unrepressed transcription. (3) Repression by tetrameric Lac repressor binding to O1 and O3. The catabolite repressor protein (CAP) site and the PI promoter are depicted as being unoccupied. There is no evidence for or against this. (4) Repression by tetrameric Lac repressor binding to O1 and O2. It is likely but not explicitly demonstrated that the CAP and RNA polymerase are bound to their sites. From Oehler S, Amouyal M, Kolkhof P, Wilcken‐Bergmann Bv and Müller‐Hill B (1994) Quality and position of the three lac operators of E. coli define efficiency of repression. EMBO Journal 13: 3348–3355.



Bell CE and Lewis M (2000) A closer view of the conformation of the Lac repressor bound to operator. Nature Structural Biology 7: 209–214.

Bell CE and Lewis M (2001) The Lac repressor: a second generation of structural and functional studies. Current Opinion in Structural Biology 11: 19–25.

Benoff B, Yang H, Lawson CL et al. (2002) Structural basis of transcription activation: the cap α CTD‐DNA complex. Science 297: 1562–1566.

Busby S and Ebright RH (1994) Promoter structure, promoter recognition, and transcription activation in prokaryotes. Cell 79: 743–746.

Dodd IB, Perkins AJ, Tsemitsidis D and Egan JB (2001) Octamerisation of λ CI repressor is needed for effective repression of PRM and efficient switching from lysogeny. Genes and Development 15: 3013–3022.

Gilbert W and Müller‐Hill B (1966) Isolation of the lac repressor. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 56: 1891–1898.

Head CG, Tardy A and Kenney LJ (1998) Relative binding affinities of OmpR and OmpR‐phosphate at the ompF and ompC regulatory sites. Journal of Molecular Biology 281: 857–870.

Jacob F and Monod J (1961) Genetic regulatory mechanisms in the synthesis of proteins. Journal of Molecular Biology 3: 318–356.

Karström H (1938) Enzymatische Adaption bei Mikroorganismen. Ergebnisse der Enzymforschung 7: 350–376.

Müller‐Hill B (1998) The function of auxiliary operators. Molecular Microbiology 29: 13–18.

Müller‐Hill B (2002) What can be learned from the lacR family of Escherichia coli? In: Hodgson DA and Thomas CM (eds) Sixty‐first Symposium of the Society of General Microbiology, pp. 143–154. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Pace HC, Kercher MA, Lu P et al. (1997) TITEL. Trends in Biochemical Sciences 22: 334–339.

Ptashne M (1987) A Genetic Switch. Phage λ and Higher Organisms. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Scientific.

Révet B, von Wilken‐Bergmann B, Bessert H, Barker A and Müller Hill B (1999) Four dimers of λ repressor bound to two suitably spaced pairs of λ operators form octamers and DNA loops over large distances. Current Biology 9: 151–154.

Suckow J, Markiewicz P, Kleina LG et al. (1996) Genetic studies of the Lac repressor XV: 4000 single amino acid substitutions and analysis of the resulting phenotypes on the basis of the protein structure. Journal of Molecular Biology 261: 509–523.

Further Reading

Lwoff A and Ullmann A (eds) (1978) Selected Papers in Molecular Biology by Jacques Monod. London: Academic Press.

Miller JH and Reznikoff WS (eds) (1978) The Operon. Cold Spring Harbor, NY: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.

Müller‐Hill B (1998) The lac Operon. A Short History of a Genetic Paradigm. Berlin: de Gruyter.

Ptashne M (1987) A Genetic Switch. Phage λ and Higher Organisms. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Scientific.

Ptashne M and Gann A (2002) Genes & Signals. Cold Spring Harbor, NY: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.

Steitz TA (1993) Structural Studies of Protein–Nucleic Acid Interaction. The Source of Sequence‐Specific Binding. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wagner R (2000) Transcription Regulation in Prokaryotes. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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Müller‐Hill, Benno(Mar 2004) Bacterial Transcription Regulation. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0003828]