Free energy values of mRNA tertiary structures around stop codons were systematically calculated to surmise the hairpin-forming potential for all genes in each of the 16 complete prokaryote genomes. Instead of trying to detect each individual hairpin, we averaged the free energy values around the stop codons over the entire genome to predict how extensively the organism relies on hairpin formation in the process of transcription termination. The free energy values of Escherichia coli K-12 shows a sharp drop, as expected, at 30 bp downstream of the stop codon, presumably due to hairpin-forming sequences. Similar drops are observed for Haemophilus influenzae Rd, Bacillus subtilis and Chlamydia trachomatis, suggesting that these organisms also form hairpins at their transcription termination sites. On the other hand, 12 other prokaryotes - Mycoplasma genitalium, Mycoplasma pneumoniae, Synechocystis PCC6803, Helicobacter pylori, Borrelia burgdorferi, Methanococcus jannaschii, Archaeoglobus fulgidus, Methanobacterium thermoautotrophicum, Aquifex aeolicus, Pyrococcus horikoshii, Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Treponema pallidum - show no apparent decrease in free energy value at the corresponding regions. This result suggests that these prokaryotes, or at least some of them, may never form hairpins at their transcription termination sites.
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