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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2002 Sep 13;1577(2):191-207.

Promoter clearance and escape in prokaryotes.

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Program in Biochemistry, Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, MA 01075, USA.


Promoter escape is the last stage of transcription initiation when RNA polymerase, having initiated de novo phosphodiester bond synthesis, must begin to relinquish its hold on promoter DNA and advance to downstream regions (DSRs) of the template. In vitro, this process is marked by the release of high levels of abortive transcripts at most promoters, reflecting the high instability of initial transcribing complexes (ITCs) and indicative of the existence of barriers to the escape process. The high abortive initiation level is the result of the existence of unproductive ITCs that carry out repeated initiation and abortive release without escaping the promoter. The formation of unproductive ITCs is a widespread phenomenon, but it occurs to different extent on different promoters. Quantitative analysis of promoter mutations suggests that the extent and pattern of abortive initiation and promoter escape is determined by the sequence of promoter elements, both in the promoter recognition region (PRR) and the initial transcribed sequence (ITS). A general correlation has been found that the stronger the promoter DNA-polymerase interaction, the poorer the ability of RNA polymerase to escape the promoter. In gene regulation, promoter escape can be the rate-limiting step for transcription initiation. An increasing number of regulatory proteins are known to exert their control at this step. Examples are discussed with an emphasis on the diverse mechanisms involved. At the molecular level, the X-ray crystal structures of RNA polymerase and its various transcription complexes provide the framework for understanding the functional data on abortive initiation and promoter escape. Based on structural and biochemical evidence, a mechanism for abortive initiation and promoter escape is described.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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