Attenuation in the control of expression of bacterial operons

Nature. 1981 Feb 26;289(5800):751-8. doi: 10.1038/289751a0.


Bacterial operons concerned with the biosynthesis of amino acids are often controlled by a process of attenuation. The translation product of the initial segment of the transcript of each operon is a peptide rich in the amino acid that the particular operon controls. If the amino acid is in short supply translation is stalled at the relevant codons of the transcript long enough for the succeeding segment of the transcript to form secondary structures that allow the transcribing RNA polymerase molecule to proceed through a site that otherwise dictates termination of transcription. This site is the attenuator; the process is attenuation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids / genetics
  • Binding Sites
  • Codon
  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Histidine / genetics
  • Mutation
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation
  • Nucleic Acid Precursors / genetics
  • Operon*
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • Ribosomes / metabolism
  • Salmonella typhimurium / genetics
  • Transcription, Genetic*
  • Tryptophan / genetics*


  • Amino Acids
  • Codon
  • Nucleic Acid Precursors
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Histidine
  • Tryptophan