Indexed on: 08 Feb '14Published on: 08 Feb '14Published in: PloS one
In Bacillus subtilis, transcription of the tryptophan biosynthetic operon is regulated by an attenuation mechanism. When intracellular tryptophan levels are high, the TRAP protein binds to the 5' leader region of the nascent trp mRNA and induces transcription termination prior to the structural genes. In limiting tryptophan, TRAP does not bind and the operon is transcribed. Two competing RNA secondary structures termed the antiterminator and terminator (attenuator) can form in the leader region RNA. In prior attenuation models, the only role of TRAP binding was to alter the RNA secondary structure to allow formation of the attenuator, which has been thought function as an intrinsic transcription terminator. However, recent studies have shown that the attenuator is not an effective intrinsic terminator. From these studies it was not clear whether TRAP functions independently or requires the presence of the attenuator RNA structure. Hence we have further examined the role of the attenuator RNA in TRAP-mediated transcription termination. TRAP was found to cause efficient transcription termination in the trp leader region in vivo when the attenuator was mutated or deleted. However, TRAP failed to induce transcription termination at these mutant attenuators in a minimal in vitro transcription system with B. subtilis RNA polymerase. Further studies using this system showed that NusA as well as the timing of TRAP binding to RNA play a role in the observed differences in vivo and in vitro.