Repressors, polymerases, ribosomes and other macromolecules bind to specific nucleic acid sequences. They can find a binding site only if the sequence has a recognizable pattern. We define a measure of the information (Rsequence) in the sequence patterns at binding sites. It allows one to investigate how information is distributed across the sites and to compare one site to another. One can also calculate the amount of information (Rfrequency) that would be required to locate the sites, given that they occur with some frequency in the genome. Several Escherichia coli binding sites were analyzed using these two independent empirical measurements. The two amounts of information are similar for most of the sites we analyzed. In contrast, bacteriophage T7 RNA polymerase binding sites contain about twice as much information as is necessary for recognition by the T7 polymerase, suggesting that a second protein may bind at T7 promoters. The extra information can be accounted for by a strong symmetry element found at the T7 promoters. This element may be an operator. If this model is correct, these promoters and operators do not share much information. The comparisons between Rsequence and Rfrequency suggest that the information at binding sites is just sufficient for the sites to be distinguished from the rest of the genome.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)415-431
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Molecular Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 5 1986


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