The three operators of the lac operon cooperate in repression

Stefan Oehler, Elisabeth R. Eismann, Helmut Krämer, Benno Müller-Hill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

331 Scopus citations


We tested the effect of systematic destruction of all three lac operators of the chromosomal lac operon of Escherichia coli on repression by Lac repressor. Absence of just one 'pseudo-operator' O2 or O3 decreases repression by wild-type tetrameric Lac repressor ~ 2- to 3-fold; absence of both 'pseudo-operators' decreases repression > 50-fold. O1 alone represses under these conditions only ~ 20-fold. Dimeric active Lac repressor (i(adi)) represses the wild-type lac operon to about the same low extent. This indicates that cooperative interaction between lac operators is due to DNA loop formation mediated by tetrameric Lac repressor. Under conditions where loop formation is impossible, occupation of O3 but not of O2 may lead to weak repression. This suggests that under these conditions CAP activation may be inhibited and that stopping transcription at O2 does not significantly contribute to repression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)973-979
Number of pages7
JournalEMBO Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1990


  • DNA loops
  • Escherichia coli
  • Lac repressor
  • lac operator
  • repression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Molecular Biology
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)


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