Downstream regulation of int gene expression by the b2 region in phage lambda

Chris Epp, Mark L. Pearson, Lynn Enquist

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Expression of the int gene after phage λ infection normally requires the products of genes cII and cIII. However, when the phage carries a deletion in the nonessential b2 region adjacent to int, efficient synthesis of active Int protein does not require cII and cIII function. This inhibition of Int synthesis by nucleotide sequences downstream from the int structural gene behaves in a cis-dominant fashion in mixed infections. It is specific for PL- and not pI-initiated transcripts. Based on these observations, and those of others, a model is proposed in which Int translation from the pL transcript is inhibited by the interaction of downstream b2 nucleotide sequences and nucleotide sequences in the int region. The data imply a novel temporal mechanism regulating prophage λ induction: circularization of the prophage genome results in the transposition of inhibitory b2 region sequences next to int and blocks further Int protein synthesis beyond the low level required for excision. As a consequence of this process, the control of int expression is transferred from the pL promoter to pI and the cII/cIII system. Such a genetic regulatory mechanism involving the rearrangement of genetic elements downstream from a structural gene may be of general use during development in other systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)327-337
Number of pages11
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 1981

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Genetics


  • Bacteriophage λlysogeny
  • Int activity
  • cII
  • cIII genes
  • polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis
  • post-transcriptional control
  • site-specific recombination


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