Scientists discover Spot 42 function in the galactose operon
Although the E. coli galactose operon is a staple of most biology textbooks, a new report in the July 1 issue of Genes & Development shows that our understanding of this common example of bacterial gene regulation is still evolving.
Dr. Poul Valentin-Hansen and colleagues at the University of Southern Denmark report that a small RNA, called Spot 42, functions by an antisense mechanism to differentially regulate gene expression in the galactose operon.
The E. coli galactose operon is a cluster of four contiguous genes that are expressed as a group and encode enzymes that regulate galactose sugar metabolism. Like all bacterial operons, the four gal genes (galE, T, K, and M) are transcribed into one polycistronic mRNA message. Interestingly though, although all four gal genes are translated from this one polycistronic message, the relative synthesis of the encoded enzymes differs depending upon metabolic conditions.
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