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Microbiol Spectr. 2018 Sep;6(5). doi: 10.1128/microbiolspec.RWR-0031-2018.

Processive Antitermination.

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Department of Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics, The University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742.


Transcription is a discontinuous process, where each nucleotide incorporation cycle offers a decision between elongation, pausing, halting, or termination. Many cis-acting regulatory RNAs, such as riboswitches, exert their influence over transcription elongation. Through such mechanisms, certain RNA elements can couple physiological or environmental signals to transcription attenuation, a process where cis-acting regulatory RNAs directly influence formation of transcription termination signals. However, through another regulatory mechanism called processive antitermination (PA), RNA polymerase can bypass termination sites over much greater distances than transcription attenuation. PA mechanisms are widespread in bacteria, although only a few classes have been discovered overall. Also, although traditional, signal-responsive riboswitches have not yet been discovered to promote PA, it is increasingly clear that small RNA elements are still oftentimes required. In some instances, small RNA elements serve as loading sites for cellular factors that promote PA. In other instances, larger, more complicated RNA elements participate in PA in unknown ways, perhaps even acting alone to trigger PA activity. These discoveries suggest that what is now needed is a systematic exploration of PA in bacteria, to determine how broadly these transcription elongation mechanisms are utilized, to reveal the diversity in their molecular mechanisms, and to understand the general logic behind their cellular applications. This review covers the known examples of PA regulatory mechanisms and speculates that they may be broadly important to bacteria.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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