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Microbiology. 2006 Sep;152(Pt 9):2515-28.

Rho-dependent terminators and transcription termination.

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Dipartimento di Genetica e Microbiologia, Università di Bari, Via Amendola 165/A, 70126 Bari, Italy.


Rho-dependent transcription terminators participate in sophisticated genetic regulatory mechanisms, in both bacteria and phages; they occur in regulatory regions preceding the coding sequences of genes and within coding sequences, as well as at the end of transcriptional units, to prevent readthrough transcription. Most Rho-dependent terminators have been found in enteric bacteria, but they also occur in Gram-positive bacteria and may be widespread among bacteria. Rho-dependent termination requires both cis-acting elements, on the mRNA, and trans-acting factors. The only cis-acting element common to Rho-dependent terminators is richness in rC residues. Additional sequence elements have been observed at different Rho termination sites. These 'auxiliary elements' may assist in the termination process; they differ among terminators, their occurrence possibly depending on the function and sequence context of the terminator. Specific nucleotides required for termination have also been identified at Rho sites. Rho is the main factor required for termination; it is a ring-shaped hexameric protein with ATPase and helicase activities. NusG, NusA and NusB are additional factors participating in the termination process. Rho-dependent termination occurs by binding of Rho to ribosome-free mRNA, C-rich sites being good candidates for binding. Rho's ATPase is activated by Rho-mRNA binding, and provides the energy for Rho translocation along the mRNA; translocation requires sliding of the message into the central hole of the hexamer. When a polymerase pause site is encountered, the actual termination occurs, and the transcript is released by Rho's helicase activity. Many aspects of this process are still being studied. The isolation of mutants suppressing termination, site-directed mutagenesis of cis-acting elements in Rho-dependent termination, and biochemistry, are and will be contributing to unravelling the still undefined aspects of the Rho termination machinery. Analysis of the more sophisticated regulatory mechanisms relying on Rho-dependent termination may be crucial in identifying new essential elements for termination.

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