Expression of the filamentous phage f1 gene VII is shown to be translationally coupled to that of the upstream gene V. Fusions of the gene VII initiation site to the lacZ coding region were used to determine that initiation at the VII site is completely dependent on the process of translation having proceeded up to a stop codon immediately upstream from the VII site. Coupled expression from the VII site was found to be inefficient, proportional to the level of upstream translation, and very sensitive to the distance from the functional upstream stop codon. Independent expression from the VII site was not observed, even in a deletion series designed to remove potentially masking RNA structure. On the basis of the VII site's dissimilarity to ribosome binding site sequences and its properties overall, we suggest that it inherently lacks the features required for independent recognition by ribosomes, and acquires the ability to initiate synthesis of gene VII protein by virtue of the coupling process. © 1989.
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