Tryptophanase, encoded by the gene tnaA, is a catabolic enzyme distinct from the enzymes of tryptophan biosynthesis. Tryptophanase synthesis is induced by tryptophan and is subject to catabolite repression. We studied the mechanism of tna operon induction. Mutants with altered rho factor were partially constitutive for tna expression, implicating rho-dependent transcription termination in the control of tna expression. Measurements of mRNA synthesis from the transcribed leader region preceeding the tna operon suggested that the tna promoter was constitutive and that in the absence of inducer, transcription terminated in the leader region. Upon induction, this transcription termination was relieved. Cis-acting constitutive mutants had genetic alterations in the tna leader region. These lesions defined a site that is homologous to the bacteriophage lambda boxA sequence, which is thought to play a role in antitermination control of lambda lytic gene expression. We propose that tna expression is subject to transcription antitermination control. We hypothesize that a tryptophan-activated antiterminator protein mediates induction by suppressing the rho-dependent termination sites in the leader region, thus allowing transcription to proceed into the tna operon structural gene region
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