ii. lacY encodes ?-galactoside permease (LacY), a membrane- bound transport protein that pumps lactose into the cell. iii. lacA encodes ?-galactoside transacetylase (LacA), an enzyme that transfers an acetyl group from acetyl-CoA to 13-galacto- sides. Gene regulation of the lac operon was the first complex genetic regulatory mechanism to be elucidated and is one of the foremost examples of prokaryotic gene regulation. In its natural environment, the lac operon allows for the effective digestion of lactose. The cell can use lactose as an energy source by producing the enzyme ?-galactosidase to digest that lactose into glucose and galactose. However, it would be inefficient to produce enzymes when there is no lactose available, or if there is a more readily-available energy source available such as glucose.
The lac operon uses a two-part control mechanism to ensure that the cell expends energy producing ?-galactosidase, ?-galactoside permease and thiogalactoside transacetylase (also known as galactoside O-acetyltransferase) only when necessary. It achieves this with the lac repressor, which halts production in the absence of lactose and the Catabolite Activator Protein (CAP) which assists in production in the absence of glucose. This dual control mechanism causes the sequential utilization of glucose and lactose in two distinct growth phases, known as diauxic. Similar diauxic growth patterns have been observed in bacterial growth on mixtures of other sugars as well such as mixtures of glucose and xylose or of glucose and arabinose etc. The genetic control mechanisms underlying such diauxic growth patterns are known as xyl operon and ara operon etc.