The leucine operon leader is an RNA element that was found upstream of some leucine biosynthesis leuABCD operons in Escherichia coli and related bacteria and that is involved in the amino acid dependent attenuation of their transcription . The leader sequence can assume two different secondary structures known as the terminator and the anti-terminator structure. The leader also codes for very short peptide sequence that is rich in Leucine. The terminator structure is recognized as a termination signal for RNA polymerase and the operon is not transcribed. This structure forms when the cell has an excess of leucine and ribosome movement over the leader transcript is not impeded.
When there is a deficiency of the charged leucyl tRNA the ribosome translating the leader peptide stalls and the antiterminator structure can form. This allows RNA polymerase to transcribe the operon.
Computational searches for similar RNA structures in the leader regions of various bacteria have identified the conserved Leu attenuators in various Gammaproteobacteria, and in some bacteria from the Firmicutes and Thermotogales phyla [15135544