Electron microscopic study of the repressor of bacteriophage λ and its interaction with operator DNA

Christine Brack, Vincenzo Pirrotta

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30 Scopus citations


The structure of purified phage λ repressor has been examined by high resolution electron microscopy. The repressor molecule appears predominantly as a tetramer of about 95 Å × 120 Å. We have proposed a model to account for the variety of aspects seen on the electron micrographs. Spreading DNA without protein film and use of uranyl formate staining allowed the simultaneous visualization of the DNA and the structure of the repressor molecule bound to it. Mapping the positions of λ repressor bound to whole λ DNA shows preferential binding to the region containing the operators. At high resolution multiple binding of repressor to the operator can be demonstrated. Depending on the amount of repressor present, rows of one to four repressor tetramers are seen on the DNA, confirming the model of the operator containing four binding sites for repressor. The bound repressor can consequently protect against nuclease digestion of operator pieces of approximately 30, 57, 87 and 111 base-pairs. The isolated operator appears in the electron microscope as short double-stranded DNA fragments which can be shown to rebind repressor.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)139-144,IN27-IN34,145-152
JournalJournal of molecular biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 25 1975
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biophysics
  • Structural Biology
  • Molecular Biology


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