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EMBO J. 2001 Jul 16;20(14):3811-20.

Ribosomal protein S4 is a transcription factor with properties remarkably similar to NusA, a protein involved in both non-ribosomal and ribosomal RNA antitermination.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Biology and Microbiology, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, MA 02111, USA.


Escherichia coli ribosomal RNA (rRNA) operons contain antitermination motifs necessary for forming terminator-resistant transcription complexes. In preliminary work, we isolated 'antiterminating' transcription complexes and identified four new proteins potentially involved in rRNA transcription antitermination: ribosomal (r-) proteins S4, L3, L4 and L13. We show here that these r-proteins and Nus factors lead to an 11-fold increase in terminator read-through in in vitro transcription reactions. A significant portion of the effect was a result of r-protein S4. We show that S4 acted as a general antitermination factor, with properties very similar to NusA. It retarded termination and increased read-through at Rho-dependent terminators, even in the absence of the rRNA antiterminator motif. High concentrations of NusG showed reduced antitermination by S4. Like rrn antitermination, S4 selectively antiterminated at Rho-dependent terminators. Lastly, S4 tightly bound RNA polymerase in vivo. Our results suggest that, like NusA, S4 is a general transcription antitermination factor that associates with RNA polymerase during normal transcription and is also involved in rRNA operon antitermination. A model for key r-proteins playing a regulatory role in rRNA synthesis is presented.

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