Effects of guanosine tetraphosphate, guanosine pentaphosphate, and beta-gamma methylenyl-guanosine pentaphosphate on gene expression of Escherichia coli in vitro

Yang, H.L.; Zubay, G.; Urm, E.; Heiness, G.; Cashel, M.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 71(1): 63-67


ISSN/ISBN: 0027-8424
PMID: 4359331
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.71.1.63
Accession: 042955138

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The effects of guanosine tetraphosphate (ppGpp) and guanosine pentaphosphate (pppGpp), both produced by E. coli, were measured on the activities of several genes in a cell-free system. Gene activity is measured as gene-directed synthesis of biochemically competent protein or transfer RNA. Both ppGpp and pppGpp stimulated the activities of the ara, lac, and trp operons and inhibited the arg operon. Production of transfer-RNA(Tyr) was unaffected by moderate levels of either ppGpp or pppGpp and only slightly inhibited at higher levels of ppGpp. Since the cell-free reaction mixtures hydrolyze pppGpp to ppGpp, we performed similar studies with a hydrolysis-resistant analog of pppGpp, the beta-gamma methylenyl derivative (pcppGpp). In general, pcppGpp shows the same inhibitory potency as pppGpp for the arg operon, but lacks the stimulatory effects on the ara, lac, and trp operons. This result suggests that the stimulation of these gene activities is specific for ppGpp.Under similar conditions, pppGpp and ppGpp show a slight inhibitory effect on the messenger-directed synthesis of beta-galactosidase and no effect on the messenger-directed synthesis of MS2 viral-coat protein. These observations, together with the fact that in the same system these nucleotides affect coupled transcription and translation, lead us to surmise that the activities of pppGpp and ppGpp are exerted at the level of RNA polymerase activity.