Conservation of a dual-start motif in P22 lysis gene regulation. Academic Article uri icon


  • Gene 13 of bacteriophage P22 is functionally equivalent to lambda lysis gene S. Gene S codes for two products, the polypeptides S105 and S107, produced from translational initiation events at the third and first codon, respectively. We have shown that the two polypeptides have opposing functions in lysis: S105 is the lethal lysis effector, and S107 acts as an inhibitor of lysis (U. Bläsi, K. Nam, D. Hartz, L. Gold, and R. Young, EMBO J. 11:3501-3510, 1989). Gene 13 has a 108-codon reading frame and its product begins with a similar motif: Met-1-Lys-2-Lys-3-Met-4. Here, we present in vivo and in vitro evidence for the expression of a 13(108) and a 13(105) product and show that the lambda lysis control mechanisms is evolutionarily conserved in phage P22. In this case 13(108), like S107 in lambda, functions as the inhibitor of the lysis effector 13(105). Although the DNA sequences upstream of the S and 13 gene starts showed less homology, the same structural characteristics, i.e., stem-loop structures immediately upstream and about 10 codons downstream of the start region, were present in both reading frames. Using in vitro mutagenesis and toeprinting, we show that the upstream stem-loop structures of genes 13 and S, containing the Shine-Dalgarno sequence for initiations at Met-1, are interchangeable. Moreover, our data indicate that the stability of the secondary structures present in the translational initiation regions of genes S and 13 is set to create a particular ratio of initiation events at Met-1 and Met-3 or Met-4. The ratio of effector to inhibitor was much higher in P22 than in lambda. We propose that this reflects less transcriptional readthrough at the late terminator t(R) and suggests that the dual-start motif in genes 13 and S may be important for establishment of maintenance of the lysogenic state.

author list (cited authors)

  • Nam, K., Bläsi, U., Zagotta, M. T., & Young, R.

citation count

  • 26

publication date

  • January 1990