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J Mol Biol. 2019 May 30. pii: S0022-2836(19)30325-0. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2019.05.041. [Epub ahead of print]

Transcription of Bacterial Chromatin.

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Department of Biochemistry, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, 53706, United States.
Department of Biochemistry, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, 53706, United States; Department of Bacteriology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, 53706, United States. Electronic address:


Decades of research have probed the interplay between chromatin (genomic DNA associated with proteins and RNAs) and transcription by RNA polymerase (RNAP) in all domains of life. In bacteria, chromatin is compacted into a membrane-free region known as the nucleoid that changes shape and composition depending on the bacterial state. Transcription plays a key role in both shaping the nucleoid and organizing it into domains. At the same time, chromatin impacts transcription by at least five distinct mechanisms: (i) occlusion of RNAP binding; (ii) roadblocking RNAP progression; (iii) constraining DNA topology; (iv) RNA-mediated interactions; and (v) macromolecular demixing and heterogeneity, which may generate phase-separated condensates. These mechanisms are not mutually exclusive and, in combination, mediate gene regulation. Here, we review the current understanding of these mechanisms with a focus on gene silencing by H-NS, transcription coordination by HU, and potential phase separation by Dps. The myriad questions about transcription of bacterial chromatin are increasingly answerable due to methodological advances, enabling a needed paradigm shift in the field of bacterial transcription to focus on regulation of genes in their native state. We can anticipate answers that will define how bacterial chromatin helps coordinate and dynamically regulate gene expression in changing environments.


Nucleoid; RNA polymerase; phase separation; supercoiling; topological stress


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