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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Sep 7;107(36):15745-50. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1009898107. Epub 2010 Aug 23.

RNA polymerase II trigger loop residues stabilize and position the incoming nucleotide triphosphate in transcription.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Clear Water Bay, Kowloon, Hong Kong.


A structurally conserved element, the trigger loop, has been suggested to play a key role in substrate selection and catalysis of RNA polymerase II (pol II) transcription elongation. Recently resolved X-ray structures showed that the trigger loop forms direct interactions with the beta-phosphate and base of the matched nucleotide triphosphate (NTP) through residues His1085 and Leu1081, respectively. In order to understand the role of these two critical residues in stabilizing active site conformation in the dynamic complex, we performed all-atom molecular dynamics simulations of the wild-type pol II elongation complex and its mutants in explicit solvent. In the wild-type complex, we found that the trigger loop is stabilized in the "closed" conformation, and His1085 forms a stable interaction with the NTP. Simulations of point mutations of His1085 are shown to affect this interaction; simulations of alternative protonation states, which are inaccessible through experiment, indicate that only the protonated form is able to stabilize the His1085-NTP interaction. Another trigger loop residue, Leu1081, stabilizes the incoming nucleotide position through interaction with the nucleotide base. Our simulations of this Leu mutant suggest a three-component mechanism for correctly positioning the incoming NTP in which (i) hydrophobic contact through Leu1081, (ii) base stacking, and (iii) base pairing work together to minimize the motion of the incoming NTP base. These results complement experimental observations and provide insight into the role of the trigger loop on transcription fidelity.

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