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Genes Dev. 1998 Feb 15;12(4):538-46.

Vaccinia NPH-I, a DExH-box ATPase, is the energy coupling factor for mRNA transcription termination.

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Molecular Biology Program, Sloan-Kettering Institute, New York, New York 10021, USA.


Vaccinia virus RNA polymerase terminates transcription in response to a specific signal UUUUUNU in the nascent RNA. Transduction of this signal to the elongating polymerase requires a trans-acting viral termination factor (VTF/capping enzyme), and is coupled to the hydrolysis of ATP. Recent studies suggest that ATP hydrolysis is catalyzed by a novel termination protein (factor X), which is tightly associated with the elongation complex. Here, we identify factor X as NPH-I (nucleoside triphosphate phosphohydrolase-I), a virus-encoded DNA-dependent ATPase of the DExH-box family. We report that NPH-I serves two roles in transcription (1) it acts in concert with VTF/CE to catalyze release of UUUUUNU-containing nascent RNA from the elongation complex, and (2) it acts by itself as a polymerase elongation factor to facilitate readthrough of intrinsic pause sites. A mutation (K61A) in the GxGKT motif of NPH-I abolishes ATP hydrolysis and eliminates the termination and elongation factor activities. Related DExH proteins may have similar roles at postinitiation steps during cellular mRNA synthesis.

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