Binding of the arginine repressor of Escherichia coli K12 to its operator sites

Guoling Tian, Dongbin Lim, Jannette Carey, Werner K. Maas

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73 Scopus citations


In the arginine regulon of Escherichia coli K12 each of the eight operator sites consists of two 18-base-pair-long palindromic sequences called ARG boxes. In the operator sites for the structural genes of the regulon the two ARG boxes are separated by three base-pairs, in the regulatory gene argR they are separated by two base-pairs. The hexameric arginine repressor, the product of argR, binds to the two ARG boxes in an operator in the presence of l-arginine. From the results of various kinds of in vitro footprinting experiments with the ARG boxes of argF and argR (DNase I protection, hydroxyl radical, ethylation and methylation interference, methylation protection) it can be concluded that: (1) the repressor binds simultaneously to two adjacent ARG boxes; (2) that it binds on one face of the double helix; and (3) that it forms contacts with the major and minor grooves of each ARG box, but not with the central three base-pairs. The repressor can bind also to a single ARG box, but its affinity is about 100-fold lower than for two ARG boxes. From gel retardation experiments with 3H-labeled repressor and 32P-labeled argF operator DNA, it is concluded that the retarded DNA-protein complex contains no more than one repressor molecule per operator site and that most likely one hexamer binds to two ARG boxes. The bound repressor was shown to induce bending of argF operator DNA. The bending angle calculated from the results of gel retardation experiments is about 70° and the bending center was located within the region encompassing the ARG boxes. The main features that distinguish the arginine repressor from other repressers studied in E. coli are its hexameric nature and the simultaneous binding of one hexameric molecule to two palindromic ARG boxes that are close to each other.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)387-397
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Molecular Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 20 1992

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Molecular Biology
  • Structural Biology


  • arginine repressor
  • hexameric repressor
  • induced DNA bending
  • regulation
  • repressor-operator interaction


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