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The L-arabinose operon, also called ara operon, is a gene sequence encoding enzymes needed for the catabolism of arabinose to xylulose 5-phosphate, an intermediate of the pentose phosphate pathway. It has both positive and negative regulation. The operon is found in Escherichia coli.
The operators are araI and araO2. The operators lie between the AraC.
AraI lies between the structural genes and the operator. The araI1 and araI2 are DNA-binding sites that, when occupied by AraC, induce expression.
(Distances not to scale)
The ara operon is regulated by the AraC protein. If arabinose is absent, the dimer AraC protein represses the structural gene by binding to araI1 and araO2 and the DNA forms a loop. The loop prevents RNA polymerase from binding to the promoter of the ara operon, thereby blocking transcription.
When arabinose is present, arabinose binds AraC and prevents AraC from interacting. This breaks the DNA loop. The two AraC-arabinose complexes bind to the araI1 and araI2 sites which promotes transcription. When arabinose is present, AraC acts as an activator.
If arabinose is present, it builds a complex: AraC + arabinose
This complex is needed for RNA polymerase to bind to the promoter and transcribe the ara operon. Also for activation the binding of another structure to araI is needed: CRP (formerly known as CAP) + cyclic AMP
So the activation depends on the presence of arabinose and cAMP.
- The lac operon is another operon in E. coli that has been a focus for research in gene expression.