Transcription and RNA Processing

ID #2348

As this exam is not going to be about memorization, but more about understanding concepts, what is a good way to remember the difference between CONSERVED and CONSENSUS sequences in promoter recognition? I tend to get those two confused.


The terms do overlap in what they are describing. A conserved sequence is remarkably consistent among species. Examples include the primary sequence of histones or origins of replication. (So "conserved" can refer to either nucleic acid sequences or amino acid sequences). In a given conserved region of DNA or RNA, there is a sequence that is more commonly found there, and that is known as the consensus sequence. A consensus sequence is very specific and will be referring to specific nucleotide sequences, for example the -10 and -35 sequences. For example, promoters in E. coli will be highly conserved, and they will have a consensus sequence at the -10: TATAAT. Keep in mind that you do need to memorize the -10 and -35 consensus sequences. 

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