Effects of transcription induction homogeneity and transcript stability on expression of two genes in a constructed operon
A synthetic operon was constructed using the reporter genes gfp and lacZ and the arabinose-inducible araBAD promoter. DNA cassettes encoding mRNA secondary structures were placed at the 3′ and 5′ ends of the genes and a putative RNase E site was placed between the genes. These mRNA control elements have been shown to affect transcript processing and decay, resulting in altered protein levels. These constructs were transformed into cells harboring the native arabinose-inducible araE gene encoding the arabinose transport protein and engineered cells harboring a constitutively expressed araE. In the strains with arabinose-dependent transport the linear response in the production of both reporter proteins to inducer concentration occurred over a narrow range of arabinose concentrations. In the strains with constitutive transport the linear range of gene expression occurred over a much larger arabinose concentration range than in strains with the arabinose-inducible transport. Strains with the arabinose-inducible transport harboring different operon constructs produced the two reporter proteins at very different levels at low arabinose concentrations; as inducer concentrations increased, differences in relative expression levels decreased. In contrast, strains with constitutive transport harboring different operon constructs produced the reporter proteins at very different levels across the entire range of inducer concentrations, pointing to the importance of optimizing gene expression control at various levels to control the production of heterologous proteins.