Hyper-regulation of pyr gene expression in Escherichia coli cells with slow ribosomes. Evidence for RNA polymerase pausing in vivo?

Eur J Biochem. 1988 Aug 15;175(3):587-93. doi: 10.1111/j.1432-1033.1988.tb14232.x.


UTP-modulated attenuation of transcription is involved in regulating the synthesis of pyrimidine nucleotides in Escherichia coli. Thus, expression of two genes, pyrBI and pyrE, was shown to be under this type of control. The genes encode the two subunits of aspartate transcarbamylase and orotate phosphoribosyltransferase respectively. The levels of these enzymes are inversely correlated with the intracellular concentration of UTP. Modulation of attenuation seems to be a consequence of the effect of UTP concentration on the mRNA chain growth rate. Reducing the UTP pool retards RNA polymerase movement. Mechanistically this will couple the ribosomes translating a leader peptide gene more tightly to the elongating RNA polymerase. The ribosomes will then be more prone to prevent the folding of the mRNA chains into terminating hairpin structures when RNA polymerase is at the attenuator and has to decide whether transcription should terminate or continue into the structural genes. This paper described a study of pyrBI and pyrE gene regulation in cells where the ribosomes move slowly as a result of mutation in rpsL. It appears that expression of the two genes is hyper-regulated by the UTP pool in this type of cells. Furthermore, the attenuator model can only account for the results if it is assumed that UTP-concentration-dependent pausing of transcription occurs in vivo in the two pyr gene leaders such that RNA polymerase waits for the coupled ribosomes before transcribing into the attenuator regions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aspartate Carbamoyltransferase / genetics
  • DNA-Directed RNA Polymerases / genetics*
  • Escherichia coli / genetics*
  • Escherichia coli / growth & development
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Genes
  • Orotate Phosphoribosyltransferase / genetics
  • Peptide Chain Elongation, Translational
  • Plasmids
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Ribosomal Proteins / genetics*
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Uridine Triphosphate / physiology


  • RNA, Messenger
  • Ribosomal Proteins
  • Aspartate Carbamoyltransferase
  • Orotate Phosphoribosyltransferase
  • DNA-Directed RNA Polymerases
  • Uridine Triphosphate