The elongation factor RfaH and the initiation factor sigma bind to the same site on the transcription elongation complex.
ABSTRACT: RNA polymerase is a target for numerous regulatory events in all living cells. Recent studies identified a few "hot spots" on the surface of bacterial RNA polymerase that mediate its interactions with diverse accessory proteins. Prominent among these hot spots, the beta' subunit clamp helices serve as a major binding site for the initiation factor sigma and for the elongation factor RfaH. Furthermore, the two proteins interact with the nontemplate DNA strand in transcription complexes and thus may interfere with each other's activity. We show that RfaH does not inhibit transcription initiation but, once recruited to RNA polymerase, abolishes sigma-dependent pausing. We argue that this apparent competition is due to a steric exclusion of sigma by RfaH that is stably bound to the nontemplate DNA and clamp helices, both of which are necessary for the sigma recruitment to the transcription complex. Our findings highlight the key regulatory role played by the clamp helices during both initiation and elongation stages of transcription.
Project description:Universally conserved NusG/Spt5 factors reduce RNA polymerase pausing and arrest. In a widely accepted model, these proteins bridge the RNA polymerase clamp and lobe domains across the DNA channel, inhibiting the clamp opening to promote pause-free RNA synthesis. However, recent structures of paused transcription elongation complexes show that the clamp does not open and suggest alternative mechanisms of antipausing. Among these mechanisms, direct contacts of NusG/Spt5 proteins with the nontemplate DNA in the transcription bubble have been proposed to prevent unproductive DNA conformations and thus inhibit arrest. We used Escherichia coli RfaH, whose interactions with DNA are best characterized, to test this idea. We report that RfaH stabilizes the upstream edge of the transcription bubble, favoring forward translocation, and protects the upstream duplex DNA from exonuclease cleavage. Modeling suggests that RfaH loops the nontemplate DNA around its surface and restricts the upstream DNA duplex mobility. Strikingly, we show that RfaH-induced DNA protection and antipausing activity can be mimicked by shortening the nontemplate strand in elongation complexes assembled on synthetic scaffolds. We propose that remodeling of the nontemplate DNA controls recruitment of regulatory factors and R-loop formation during transcription elongation across all life.
Project description:RfaH, a paralog of the general transcription factor NusG, is recruited to elongating RNA polymerase at specific regulatory sites. The X-ray structure of Escherichia coli RfaH reported here reveals two domains. The N-terminal domain displays high similarity to that of NusG. In contrast, the alpha-helical coiled-coil C domain, while retaining sequence similarity, is strikingly different from the beta barrel of NusG. To our knowledge, such an all-beta to all-alpha transition of the entire domain is the most extreme example of protein fold evolution known to date. Both N domains possess a vast hydrophobic cavity that is buried by the C domain in RfaH but is exposed in NusG. We propose that this cavity constitutes the RNA polymerase-binding site, which becomes unmasked in RfaH only upon sequence-specific binding to the nontemplate DNA strand that triggers domain dissociation. Finally, we argue that RfaH binds to the beta' subunit coiled coil, the major target site for the initiation sigma factors.
Project description:NusG/RfaH/Spt5 transcription elongation factors are the only transcription regulators conserved across all life. Bacterial NusG regulates RNA polymerase (RNAP) elongation complexes (ECs) across most genes, enhancing elongation by suppressing RNAP backtracking and coordinating ?-dependent termination and translation. The NusG paralog RfaH engages the EC only at operon polarity suppressor (ops) sites and suppresses both backtrack and hairpin-stabilized pausing. We used single-particle cryoelectron microscopy (cryo-EM) to determine structures of ECs at ops with NusG or RfaH. Both factors chaperone base-pairing of the upstream duplex DNA to suppress backtracking, explaining stimulation of elongation genome-wide. The RfaH-opsEC structure reveals how RfaH confers operon specificity through specific recognition of an ops hairpin in the single-stranded nontemplate DNA and tighter binding to the EC to exclude NusG. Tight EC binding by RfaH sterically blocks the swiveled RNAP conformation necessary for hairpin-stabilized pausing. The universal conservation of NusG/RfaH/Spt5 suggests that the molecular mechanisms uncovered here are widespread.
Project description:Crystallographic studies of the RNA polymerase II (Pol II) elongation complex (EC) revealed the locations of downstream DNA and the DNA-RNA hybrid, but not the course of the nontemplate DNA strand in the transcription bubble and the upstream DNA duplex. Here we used single-molecule Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer (smFRET) experiments to locate nontemplate and upstream DNA with our recently developed Nano Positioning System (NPS). In the resulting complete model of the Pol II EC, separation of the nontemplate from the template strand at position +2 involves interaction with fork loop 2. The nontemplate strand passes loop beta10-beta11 on the Pol II lobe, and then turns to the other side of the cleft above the rudder. The upstream DNA duplex exits at an approximately right angle from the incoming downstream DNA, and emanates from the cleft between the protrusion and clamp. Comparison with published data suggests that the architecture of the complete EC is conserved from bacteria to eukaryotes and that upstream DNA is relocated during the initiation-elongation transition.
Project description:RfaH is a bacterial elongation factor that increases expression of distal genes in several long, horizontally acquired operons. RfaH is recruited to the transcription complex during RNA chain elongation through specific interactions with a DNA element called ops. Following recruitment, RfaH remains bound to RNA polymerase (RNAP) and acts as an antiterminator by reducing RNAP pausing and termination at some factor-independent and Rho-dependent signals. RfaH consists of two domains connected by a flexible linker. The N-terminal RfaH domain (RfaH(N)) recognizes the ops element, binds to the RNAP and reduces pausing and termination in vitro. Functional analysis of single substitutions in this domain reported here suggests that three separate RfaH(N) regions mediate these functions. We propose that a polar patch on one side of RfaH(N) interacts with the non-template DNA strand during recruitment, whereas a hydrophobic surface on the opposite side of RfaH(N) remains bound to the beta' subunit clamp helices domain throughout transcription of the entire operon. The third region is apparently dispensable for RfaH binding to the transcription complex but is required for the antitermination modification of RNAP.
Project description:NusG is an essential transcription factor that plays multiple key regulatory roles in transcription elongation, termination and coupling translation and transcription. The core role of NusG is to enhance transcription elongation and RNA polymerase processivity. Here, we present the structure of Escherichia coli RNA polymerase complexed with NusG. The structure shows that the NusG N-terminal domain (NGN) binds at the central cleft of RNA polymerase surrounded by the ?' clamp helices, the ? protrusion, and the ? lobe domains to close the promoter DNA binding channel and constrain the ?' clamp domain, but with an orientation that is different from the one observed in the archaeal ?' clamp-Spt4/5 complex. The structure also allows us to construct a reliable model of the complete NusG-associated transcription elongation complex, suggesting that the NGN domain binds at the upstream fork junction of the transcription elongation complex, similar to ?2 in the transcription initiation complex, to stabilize the junction, and therefore enhances transcription processivity.
Project description:In all organisms, RNA polymerase (RNAP) relies on accessory factors to complete synthesis of long RNAs. These factors increase RNAP processivity by reducing pausing and termination, but their molecular mechanisms remain incompletely understood. We identify the ? gate loop as an RNAP element required for antipausing activity of a bacterial virulence factor RfaH, a member of the universally conserved NusG family. Interactions with the gate loop are necessary for suppression of pausing and termination by RfaH, but are dispensable for RfaH binding to RNAP mediated by the ?' clamp helices. We hypothesize that upon binding to the clamp helices and the gate loop RfaH bridges the gap across the DNA channel, stabilizing RNAP contacts with nucleic acid and disfavoring isomerization into a paused state. We show that contacts with the gate loop are also required for antipausing by NusG and propose that most NusG homologs use similar mechanisms to increase RNAP processivity.
Project description:RfaH is required for virulence in several Gram-negative pathogens including Escherichia coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae. Through direct interactions with RNA polymerase (RNAP) and ribosome, RfaH activates the expression of capsule, cell wall and pilus biosynthesis operons by reducing transcription termination and activating translation. While E. coli RfaH has been extensively studied using structural and biochemical approaches, limited data are available for other RfaH homologs. Here we set out to identify small molecule inhibitors of E. coli and K. pneumoniae RfaHs. Results of biochemical and functional assays show that these proteins act similarly, with a notable difference between their interactions with the RNAP ? subunit gate loop. We focused on high-affinity RfaH interactions with the RNAP ?' subunit clamp helices as a shared target for inhibition. Among the top 10 leads identified by in silico docking using ZINC database, 3 ligands were able to inhibit E. coli RfaH recruitment in vitro. The most potent lead was active against both E. coli and K. pneumoniae RfaHs in vitro. Our results demonstrate the feasibility of identifying RfaH inhibitors using in silico docking and pave the way for rational design of antivirulence therapeutics against antibiotic-resistant pathogens.
Project description:We recently proposed that a nontemplate strand base in the discriminator region of bacterial promoters, the region between the -10 element and the transcription start site, makes sequence-specific contacts to region 1.2 of the sigma subunit of Escherichia coli RNA polymerase (RNAP). Because rRNA promoters contain sequences within the discriminator region that are suboptimal for interaction with sigma1.2, these promoters have the kinetic properties required for regulation by the RNAP-binding factors DksA and ppGpp. Here, we use zero-length cross-linking and mutational, kinetic, and footprinting studies to map RNAP interactions with the nontemplate strand bases at the junction of the -10 element and the discriminator region in an unregulated rRNA promoter variant and in the lambdaP(R) promoter. Our studies indicate that nontemplate strand bases adjacent to the -10 element bind within a 9-aa interval in sigma1.2 (residues 99-107). We also demonstrate that the downstream-most base on the nontemplate strand of the -10 hexamer cross-links to sigma region 2, and not to sigma1.2. Our results refine models of RNAP-DNA interactions in the promoter complex that are crucial for regulation of transcription initiation.
Project description:Upon RNA polymerase (RNAP) binding to a promoter, the ? factor initiates DNA strand separation and captures the melted nontemplate DNA, whereas the core enzyme establishes interactions with the duplex DNA in front of the active site that stabilize initiation complexes and persist throughout elongation. Among many core RNAP elements that participate in these interactions, the ?' clamp domain plays the most prominent role. In this work, we investigate the role of the ? gate loop, a conserved and essential structural element that lies across the DNA channel from the clamp, in transcription regulation. The gate loop was proposed to control DNA loading during initiation and to interact with NusG-like proteins to lock RNAP in a closed, processive state during elongation. We show that the removal of the gate loop has large effects on promoter complexes, trapping an unstable intermediate in which the RNAP contacts with the nontemplate strand discriminator region and the downstream duplex DNA are not yet fully established. We find that although RNAP lacking the gate loop displays moderate defects in pausing, transcript cleavage, and termination, it is fully responsive to the transcription elongation factor NusG. Together with the structural data, our results support a model in which the gate loop, acting in concert with initiation or elongation factors, guides the nontemplate DNA in transcription complexes, thereby modulating their regulatory properties.