Mechanism of promoter repression by Lac repressor–DNA loops

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, 200 First Street Southwest, Rochester, MN 55905, USA.
Nucleic Acids Research (Impact Factor: 8.81). 01/2013; 41(1):156–166. DOI: 10.1093/nar/gks1011

ABSTRACT The Escherichia coli lactose (lac) operon encodes the first genetic switch to be discovered, and lac remains a paradigm for studying negative and positive control of gene expression. Negative control is believed to involve competition of RNA polymerase and Lac repressor for overlapping binding sites. Contributions to the local Lac repres-sor concentration come from free repressor and re-pressor delivered to the operator from remote auxiliary operators by DNA looping. Long-standing questions persist concerning the actual role of DNA looping in the mechanism of promoter repression. Here, we use experiments in living bacteria to resolve four of these questions. We show that the distance dependence of repression enhancement is comparable for upstream and downstream auxiliary operators, confirming the hypothesis that repressor concentration increase is the principal mechanism of repression loops. We find that as few as four turns of DNA can be constrained in a stable loop by Lac repressor. We show that RNA polymerase is not trapped at repressed promoters. Finally, we show that constraining a promoter in a tight DNA loop is sufficient for repression even when promoter and operator do not overlap.

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    ABSTRACT: Cyanobacteria are solar-powered prokaryotes useful for sustainable production of valuable molecules, but orthogonal and regulated promoters are lacking. The Lac repressor (LacI) from Escherichia coli is a well-studied transcription factor that is orthogonal to cyanobacteria and represses transcription by binding a primary lac operator (lacO), blocking RNA-polymerase. Repression can be enhanced through DNA-looping, when a LacI-tetramer binds two spatially separated lacO and loops the DNA. Ptrc is a commonly used LacI-repressed promoter that is inefficiently repressed in the cyanobacterium Synechocystis PCC 6803. Ptrc2O, a version of Ptrc with two lacO, is more efficiently repressed, indicating DNA-looping. To investigate the inefficient repression of Ptrc and cyanobacterial DNA-looping, we designed a Ptrc-derived promoter library consisting of single lacO promoters, including a version of Ptrc with a stronger lacO (Ptrc1O-proximal), and dual lacO promoters with varying inter-lacO distances (the Ptrc2O-library). We first characterized artificial constitutive promoters and used one for engineering a LacI-expressing strain of Synechocystis. Using this strain, we observed that Ptrc1O-proximal is similar to Ptrc in being inefficiently repressed. Further, the Ptrc2O-library displays a periodic repression pattern that remains for both non- and induced conditions and decreases with longer inter-lacO distances, in both E. coli and Synechocystis. Repression of Ptrc2O-library promoters with operators out of phase is less efficient in Synechocystis than in E. coli, whereas repression of promoters with lacO in phase is efficient even under induced conditions in Synechocystis. Two well-repressed Ptrc2O promoters were highly active when tested in absence of LacI in Synechocystis. The artificial constitutive promoters herein characterized can be utilized for expression in cyanobacteria, as demonstrated for LacI. The inefficient repression of Ptrc and Ptrc1O-proximal in Synechocystis, as compared to E. coli, may be due to insufficient LacI expression, or differences in RNAP subunits. DNA-looping works as a transcriptional regulation mechanism similarly as in E. coli. DNA-looping contributes strongly to Ptrc2O-library repression in Synechocystis, even though they contain the weakly-repressed primary lacO of Ptrc1O-proximal and relatively low levels of LacI/cell. Hence, Synechocystis RNAP may be more sensitive to DNA-looping than E. coli RNAP, and/or the chromatin torsion resistance could be lower. Two strong and highly repressed Ptrc2O promoters could be used without induction, or together with an unstable LacI.
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    ABSTRACT: Tethered particle motion (TPM) experiments can be used to detect time-resolved loop formation in a single DNA molecule by measuring changes in the length of a DNA tether. Interpretation of such experiments is greatly aided by computer simulations of DNA looping which allow one to analyze the structure of the looped DNA and estimate DNA-protein binding constants specific for the loop formation process. We here present a new Monte Carlo scheme for accurate simulation of DNA configurations subject to geometric constraints and apply this method to Lac repressor mediated DNA looping, comparing the simulation results with new experimental data obtained by the TPM technique. Our simulations, taking into account the details of attachment of DNA ends and fluctuations of the looped subsegment of the DNA, reveal the origin of the double-peaked distribution of RMS values observed by TPM experiments by showing that the average RMS value for anti-parallel loop types is smaller than that of parallel loop types. The simulations also reveal that the looping probabilities for the anti-parallel loop types are significantly higher than those of the parallel loop types, even for loops of length 600 and 900 base pairs, and that the correct proportion between the heights of the peaks in the distribution can only be attained when loops with flexible Lac repressor conformation are taken into account. Comparison of the in silico and in vitro results yields estimates for the dissociation constants characterizing the binding affinity between O1 and Oid DNA operators and the dimeric arms of the Lac repressor.
    PLoS ONE 01/2014; 9(5):e92475. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The Escherichia coli lactose operon provides a paradigm for understanding gene control by DNA looping where the lac repressor (LacI) protein competes with RNA polymerase for DNA binding. Not all promoter loops involve direct competition between repressor and RNA polymerase. This raises the possibility that positioning a promoter within a tightly constrained DNA loop is repressive per se, an idea that has previously only been considered in vitro. Here, we engineer living E. coli bacteria to measure repression due to promoter positioning within such a tightly constrained DNA loop in the absence of protein-protein binding competition. We show that promoters held within such DNA loops are repressed ∼100-fold, with up to an additional ∼10-fold repression (∼1000-fold total) dependent on topological positioning of the promoter on the inner or outer face of the DNA loop. Chromatin immunoprecipitation data suggest that repression involves inhibition of both RNA polymerase initiation and elongation. These in vivo results show that gene repression can result from tightly looping promoter DNA even in the absence of direct competition between repressor and RNA polymerase binding.
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