National Center for
4GZZ: Crystal structures of bacterial RNA Polymerase paused elongation complexes
Cell (2013) 152 p.431-441
Transcriptional pausing by multisubunit RNA polymerases (RNAPs) is a key mechanism for regulating gene expression in both prokaryotes and eukaryotes and is a prerequisite for transcription termination. Pausing and termination states are thought to arise through a common, elemental pause state that is inhibitory for nucleotide addition. We report three crystal structures of Thermus RNAP elemental paused elongation complexes (ePECs). The structures reveal the same relaxed, open-clamp RNAP conformation in the ePEC that may arise by failure to re-establish DNA contacts during translocation. A kinked bridge-helix sterically blocks the RNAP active site, explaining how this conformation inhibits RNAP catalytic activity. Our results provide a framework for understanding how RNA hairpin formation stabilizes the paused state and how the ePEC intermediate facilitates termination.