Figure 18.1 The overall plan for the regeneration of high-quality annotation information as contained in the EMBL disk-file ISTN501.

This section describes the Mer Operon, its function, structure, regulation and mobility.

The Mer Operon is a system by which bacteria can detoxify reactive Hg2+ (mercury) ions into metallic mercury (Hg0) using the compound NADPH, nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate. The system has been well characterised in terms of functionality tests in laboratory experiments, mutagenesis experiments and the features of the DNA/protein sequences for many different organisms.

The proteins of the Mer Operon are one of the major detoxification mechanisms in mercury-contaminated soils, which often occurs as the result of human activities, especially gold mining. It is also the principal resistance mechanism bacteria possess against the mercurial compounds that were used in some of the first antibiotics, even though it is now somewhat dubious how effective many of these treatments were in the first place.

18.2.2 Genetic structure and regulation

An operon is a group of genes that are either expressed or not, depending on environmental conditions. An operon contains an operator to which a series of control proteins termed repressors or activators binds. In the normal off state, the control proteins are expressed at low levels and the Structural Genes are not transcribed1.

When the functionality of the structural genes is needed, the repressors detach from the second control region and transcription starts, that is, the genes are

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