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Vvedenskaya, IO, Vahedian-Movahed H, Bird JG, Knoblauch JG, Goldman SR, Zhang Y, Ebright RH, Nickels BE.  2014.  Interactions between RNA polymerase and the "core recognition element" counteract pausing. Science. 344(6189):1285-1289. Abstract
Transcription elongation is interrupted by sequences that inhibit nucleotide addition and cause RNA polymerase (RNAP) to pause. Here, by use of native elongating transcript sequencing (NET-seq) and a variant of NET-seq that enables analysis of mutant RNAP derivatives in merodiploid cells (mNET-seq), we analyze transcriptional pausing genome-wide in vivo in Escherichia coli. We identify a consensus pause-inducing sequence element, G₋₁₀Y₋₁G(+1) (where -1 corresponds to the position of the RNA 3' end). We demonstrate that sequence-specific interactions between RNAP core enzyme and a core recognition element (CRE) that stabilize transcription initiation complexes also occur in transcription elongation complexes and facilitate pause read-through by stabilizing RNAP in a posttranslocated register. Our findings identify key sequence determinants of transcriptional pausing and establish that RNAP-CRE interactions modulate pausing.
Berdygulova, Z, Esyunina D, Miropolskaya N, Mukhamedyarov D, Kuznedelov K, Nickels BE, Severinov K, Kulbachinskiy A, Minakhin L.  2012.  A novel phage-encoded transcription antiterminator acts by suppressing bacterial RNA polymerase pausing.. Nucleic Acids Research. Abstract
Gp39, a small protein encoded by Thermus thermophilus phage P23-45, specifically binds the host RNA polymerase (RNAP) and inhibits transcription initiation. Here, we demonstrate that gp39 also acts as an antiterminator during transcription through intrinsic terminators. The antitermination activity of gp39 relies on its ability to suppress transcription pausing at poly(U) tracks. Gp39 also accelerates transcription elongation by decreasing RNAP pausing and backtracking but does not significantly affect the rates of catalysis of individual reactions in the RNAP active center. We mapped the RNAP-gp39 interaction site to the β flap, a domain that forms a part of the RNA exit channel and is also a likely target for λ phage antiterminator proteins Q and N, and for bacterial elongation factor NusA. However, in contrast to Q and N, gp39 does not depend on NusA or other auxiliary factors for its activity. To our knowledge, gp39 is the first characterized phage-encoded transcription factor that affects every step of the transcription cycle and suppresses transcription termination through its antipausing activity.
Vvedenskaya, IO, Sharp JS, Goldman SR, Kanabar PN, Livny J, Dove SL, Nickels BE.  2012.  Growth phase-dependent control of transcription start site selection and gene expression by nanoRNAs. Genes Dev. 26(13):1498-1507. Abstract
Prokaryotic and eukaryotic RNA polymerases can use 2- to ~4-nt RNAs, ‘‘nanoRNAs,’’ to prime transcription initiation in vitro. It has been proposed that nanoRNA-mediated priming of transcription can likewise occur under physiological conditions in vivo and influence transcription start site selection and gene expression. However, no direct evidence of such regulation has been presented. Here we demonstrate in Escherichia coli that nanoRNAs prime transcription in a growth phase-dependent manner, resulting in alterations in transcription start site selection and changes in gene expression. We further define a sequence element that determines, in part, whether a promoter will be targeted by nanoRNA-mediated priming. By establishing that a significant fraction of transcription initiation is primed in living cells, our findings contradict the conventional model that all cellular transcription is initiated using nucleoside triphosphates (NTPs) only. In addition, our findings identify nanoRNAs as a previously undocumented class of regulatory small RNAs that function by being directly incorporated into a target transcript.
Nickels, BE.  2012.  A new way to start: nanoRNA-mediated priming of transcription initiation.. Transcription. 3(6):300-304. Abstract
A recent study provides evidence that RNA polymerase uses 2- to ~4-nt RNAs, species termed "nanoRNAs," to prime transcription initiation in Escherichia coli. Priming of transcription initiation with nanoRNAs represents a previously undocumented component of transcription start site selection and gene expression.