The phycocyanin subunit gene cluster is duplicated on the chromosome of the cyanobacterium Anacystis nidulans UTEX 625. The two gene clusters cpcB1A1 (left) and cpcB2A2 (right) are separated by about 2,500 base pairs, and in each cluster the beta-subunit gene is located upstream from the alpha-subunit gene. Filter hybridizations with phycocyanin-specific probes to total RNA detected at least two major transcripts that were 1,300 to 1,400 nucleotides long. Besides these major mRNA species, two minor transcripts of 3,400 and 3,700 nucleotides covering one of the gene clusters and the region between the clusters were found. No additional minor transcripts were found in the intergenic region between the two phycocyanin gene clusters. The lengths of the major mRNAs indicated that the beta- and alpha-subunit genes were cotranscribed. No apparent homologies were found when the DNA sequences located upstream from the proposed ribosome-binding site of the two phycocyanin beta-subunit genes were compared. Northern hybridizations with gene cluster-specific probes from the regions 5' of the beta-subunit genes, as well as S1 nuclease mapping and mRNA primer extension experiments, showed that both gene clusters were transcribed. The minor transcripts were found to initiate upstream from the left gene cluster. Two mRNA 5' ends were mapped upstream from the cpcB1A1 gene cluster, while only one 5' end was mapped in front of the cpcB2A2 gene cluster. All transcripts were present in RNA preparations from cultures grown under high levels of white light as well as under low levels of red light. The level of phycocyanin-specific mRNA, measured as part of the total RNA, was lower under low levels of red light compared with that under high levels of white light. Conserved sequence motifs were found when the promoter region of the cpcB1A1 gene cluster and promoter regions from other cyanobacterial photosynthesis genes were compared. The DNA sequences covering the proposed transcriptional attenuators and transcriptional stop signals contained several potential hairpin structures. One potential hairpin structure was located immediately downstream of the left phycocyanin gene cluster and was concluded to limit the level of transcription for the minor transcripts initiating upstream of the cpcB1A1 gene cluster
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