Precise frameshift and nonsense mutations were introduced into the region preceding the galactokinase gene (galK) of Escherichia coli. These mutations alter the position at which upstream translation terminates relative to the galK translation initiation signal. Constructions were characterized that allow ribosomes to stop selectively before, within or downstream from the galK initiation signal. The effects of these mutations on galK expression were monitored. Galactokinase levels are highest when upstream translation terminates within the galK initiation region. In contrast, when translation stops either upstream or downstream from the galK start site, galK expression is drastically reduced. These results demonstrate that the galK gene is translationally coupled to the gene immediately preceding galK in the gal operon (that is, galT), and that the coupling effect depends primarily on the position at which upstream translation terminates relative to the galK start site. Possible mechanisms and implications of this translational coupling phenomenon are discussed. © 1982.
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