The ? subunit gate loop is required for RNA polymerase modification by RfaH and NusG.
ABSTRACT: 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: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:NusG homologs regulate transcription and coupled processes in all living organisms. The Escherichia coli (E. coli) two-domain paralogs NusG and RfaH have conformationally identical N-terminal domains (NTDs) but dramatically different carboxy-terminal domains (CTDs), a ? barrel in NusG and an ? hairpin in RfaH. Both NTDs interact with elongating RNA polymerase (RNAP) to reduce pausing. In NusG, NTD and CTD are completely independent, and NusG-CTD interacts with termination factor Rho or ribosomal protein S10. In contrast, RfaH-CTD makes extensive contacts with RfaH-NTD to mask an RNAP-binding site therein. Upon RfaH interaction with its DNA target, the operon polarity suppressor (ops) DNA, RfaH-CTD is released, allowing RfaH-NTD to bind to RNAP. Here, we show that the released RfaH-CTD completely refolds from an all-? to an all-? conformation identical to that of NusG-CTD. As a consequence, RfaH-CTD binding to S10 is enabled and translation of RfaH-controlled operons is strongly potentiated. PAPERFLICK:
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: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.
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:Elongation factors NusG and RfaH evolved from a common ancestor and utilize the same binding site on RNA polymerase (RNAP) to modulate transcription. However, although NusG associates with RNAP transcribing most Escherichia coli genes, RfaH regulates just a few operons containing ops, a DNA sequence that mediates RfaH recruitment. Here, we describe the mechanism by which this specificity is maintained. We observe that RfaH action is indeed restricted to those several operons that are devoid of NusG in vivo. We also show that RfaH and NusG compete for their effects on transcript elongation and termination in vitro. Our data argue that RfaH recognizes its DNA target even in the presence of NusG. Once recruited, RfaH remains stably associated with RNAP, thereby precluding NusG binding. We envision a pathway by which a specialized regulator has evolved in the background of its ubiquitous paralogue. We propose that RfaH and NusG may have opposite regulatory functions: although NusG appears to function in concert with Rho, RfaH inhibits Rho action and activates the expression of poorly translated, frequently foreign genes.
Project description:NusA and NusG are transcription elongation factors that bind to RNA polymerase (RNAP) after sigma subunit release. Escherichia coli NusA (NusA(Ec)) stimulates intrinsic termination and RNAP(Ec) pausing, whereas NusG(Ec) promotes Rho-dependent termination and pause escape. Both Nus factors also participate in the formation of RNAP(Ec) antitermination complexes. We showed that Bacillus subtilis NusA (NusA(Bs)) stimulates intrinsic termination and RNAP(Bs) pausing at U107 and U144 in the trpEDCFBA operon leader. Pausing at U107 and U144 participates in the transcription attenuation and translational control mechanisms, respectively, presumably by providing additional time for trp RNA-binding attenuation protein (TRAP) to bind to the nascent trp leader transcript. Here, we show that NusG(Bs) causes modest pause stimulation at U107 and dramatic pause stimulation at U144. NusA(Bs) and NusG(Bs) act synergistically to increase the U107 and U144 pause half-lives. NusG(Bs)-stimulated pausing at U144 requires RNAP(Bs), whereas NusA(Bs) stimulates pausing of RNAP(Bs) and RNAP(Ec) at the U144 and E. coli his pause sites. Although NusG(Ec) does not stimulate pausing at U144, it competes with NusG(Bs)-stimulated pausing, suggesting that both proteins bind to the same surface of RNAP(Bs). Inactivation of nusG results in the loss of RNAP pausing at U144 in vivo and elevated trp operon expression, whereas plasmid-encoded NusG complements the mutant defects. Overexpression of nusG reduces trp operon expression to a larger extent than overexpression of nusA.
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:Efficient transcription of long polycistronic operons in bacteria frequently relies on accessory proteins but their molecular mechanisms remain obscure. RfaH is a cellular elongation factor that acts as a polarity suppressor by increasing RNA polymerase (RNAP) processivity. In this work, we provide evidence that RfaH acts by reducing transcriptional pausing at certain positions rather than by accelerating RNAP at all sites. We show that 'fast' RNAP variants are characterized by pause-free RNA chain elongation and are resistant to RfaH action. Similarly, the wild-type RNAP is insensitive to RfaH in the absence of pauses. In contrast, those enzymes that may be prone to falling into a paused state are hypersensitive to RfaH. RfaH inhibits pyrophosphorolysis of the nascent RNA and reduces the apparent Michaelis-Menten constant for nucleotides, suggesting that it stabilizes the post-translocated, active RNAP state. Given that the RfaH-binding site is located 75 A away from the RNAP catalytic center, these results strongly indicate that RfaH acts allosterically. We argue that despite the apparent differences in the nucleic acid targets, the time of recruitment and the binding sites on RNAP, unrelated antiterminators (such as RfaH and lambdaQ) utilize common strategies during both recruitment and anti-pausing modification of the transcription complex.
Project description:NusG, referred to as Spt5 in archaeal and eukaryotic organisms, is the only transcription factor conserved in all three domains of life. This general transcription elongation factor binds to RNA polymerase (RNAP) soon after transcription initiation and dissociation of the RNA polymerase ? factor. Escherichia coli NusG increases transcription processivity by suppressing RNAP pausing, whereas Bacillus subtilis NusG dramatically stimulates pausing at two sites in the untranslated leader of the trpEDCFBA operon. These two regulatory pause sites participate in transcription attenuation and translational control mechanisms, respectively. Here we report that B. subtilis NusG makes sequence-specific contacts with a T-rich sequence in the non-template DNA (ntDNA) strand within the paused transcription bubble. NusG protects T residues of the recognition sequence from permanganate oxidation, and these T residues increase the affinity of NusG to the elongation complex. Binding of NusG to RNAP does not require interaction with RNA. These results indicate that bound NusG prevents forward movement of RNA polymerase by simultaneously contacting RNAP and the ntDNA strand. Mutational studies indicate that amino acid residues of two short regions within the NusG N-terminal domain are primarily responsible for recognition of the trp operon pause signals. Structural modeling indicates that these two regions are adjacent to each another in the protein. We propose that recognition of specific sequences in the ntDNA and stimulation of RNAP pausing is a conserved function of NusG-like transcription factors.