despite the default 'off status of the lac operon, the lacY gene is never completely off. a small amount of lactose permease(encoded by lacY) is always present. why is the constant presence of a small amount of lactose permease important to the function of the lac operon?
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The permease allows the lactose to enter the cell. I am a bit rusty, but basically in order for operons which code for metabolic pathways related to sugars other than glucose to be active, they require both a low glucose content in the cell and the presence of the sugar which they code enzymes and proteins for. This is all part of the "glucose effect". So the permease must be present in small amounts or the lactose would never get into the cell to turn the operon from "off" to "on". Let me know if that doesn't make sense and maybe i can describe it better...