Antisense oligonucleotide-stimulated transcriptional pausing reveals RNA exit channel specificity of RNA polymerase and mechanistic contributions of NusA and RfaH.
ABSTRACT: Transcript elongation by bacterial RNA polymerase (RNAP) is thought to be regulated at pause sites by open versus closed positions of the RNAP clamp domain, pause-suppressing regulators like NusG and RfaH that stabilize the closed-clampRNAP conformation, and pause-enhancing regulators like NusA and exit channel nascent RNA structures that stabilize the open clamp RNAP conformation. However, the mutual effects of these protein and RNA regulators on RNAP conformation are incompletely understood. For example, it is unknown whether NusA directly interacts with exit channel duplexes and whether formation of exit channel duplexes and RfaH binding compete by favoring the open and closed RNAP conformations. We report new insights into these mechanisms using antisense oligonucleotide mimics of a pause RNA hairpin from the leader region of the his biosynthetic operon of enteric bacteria like Escherichia coli. By systematically varying the structure and length of the oligonucleotide mimic, we determined that full pause stabilization requires an RNA-RNA duplex of at least 8 bp or a DNA-RNA duplex of at least 11 bp; RNA-RNA duplexes were more effective than DNA-RNA. NusA stimulation of pausing was optimal with 10-bp RNA-RNA duplexes and was aided by single-stranded RNA upstream of the duplex but was significantly reduced with DNA-RNA duplexes. Our results favor direct NusA stabilization of exit channel duplexes, which consequently affect RNAP clamp conformation. Effects of RfaH, which suppresses oligo-stabilization of pausing, were competitive with antisense oligonucleotide concentration, suggesting that RfaH and exit channel duplexes compete via opposing effects on RNAP clamp conformation.
Project description:The rates of RNA synthesis and the folding of nascent RNA into biologically active structures are linked via pausing by RNA polymerase (RNAP). Structures that form within the RNA-exit channel can either increase pausing by interacting with RNAP or decrease pausing by preventing backtracking. Conversely, pausing is required for proper folding of some RNAs. Opening of the RNAP clamp domain has been proposed to mediate some effects of nascent-RNA structures. However, the connections among RNA structure formation and RNAP clamp movement and catalytic activity remain uncertain. Here, we assayed exit-channel structure formation in Escherichia coli RNAP with disulfide cross-links that favor closed- or open-clamp conformations and found that clamp position directly influences RNA structure formation and RNAP catalytic activity. We report that exit-channel RNA structures slow pause escape by favoring clamp opening through interactions with the flap that slow translocation.
Project description:Transcriptional pausing by RNA polymerases (RNAPs) is a key mechanism to regulate gene expression in all kingdoms of life and is a prerequisite for transcription termination. The essential bacterial transcription factor NusA stimulates both pausing and termination of transcription, thus playing a central role. Here, we report single-particle electron cryo-microscopy reconstructions of NusA bound to paused E. coli RNAP elongation complexes with and without a pause-enhancing hairpin in the RNA exit channel. The structures reveal four interactions between NusA and RNAP that suggest how NusA stimulates RNA folding, pausing, and termination. An asymmetric translocation intermediate of RNA and DNA converts the active site of the enzyme into an inactive state, providing a structural explanation for the inhibition of catalysis. Comparing RNAP at different stages of pausing provides insights on the dynamic nature of the process and the role of NusA as a regulatory factor.
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:Interaction of the lambdoid phage N protein with the bacterial transcription elongation factor NusA is the key component in the process of transcription antitermination. A convex surface of E. coli NusA-NTD, located opposite to its RNA polymerase-binding domain (the ?-flap domain), directly interacts with N in the antitermination complex. We hypothesized that this N-NusA interaction induces allosteric effects on the NusA-RNAP interaction leading to transformation of NusA into a facilitator of the antitermination process. Here we showed that mutations in ?-flap domain specifically defective for N antitermination exhibited altered NusA-nascent RNA interaction and have widened RNA exit channel indicating an intricate role of flap domain in the antitermination. The presence of N reoriented the RNAP binding surface of NusA-NTD, which changed its interaction pattern with the flap domain. These changes caused significant spatial rearrangement of the ?-flap as well as the ?' dock domains to form a more constricted RNA exit channel in the N-modified elongation complex (EC), which might play key role in converting NusA into a facilitator of the N antitermination. We propose that in addition to affecting the RNA exit channel and the active center of the EC, ?-flap domain rearrangement is also a mechanistic component in the N antitermination process.
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:Sequence-specific pausing by RNA polymerase (RNAP) during transcription plays crucial and diverse roles in gene expression. In bacteria, RNA structures are thought to fold within the RNA exit channel of the RNAP and can increase pause lifetimes significantly. The biophysical mechanism of pausing is uncertain. We used single-particle cryo-EM to determine structures of paused complexes, including a 3.8-Å structure of an RNA hairpin-stabilized, paused RNAP that coordinates RNA folding in the his operon attenuation control region of E. coli. The structures revealed a half-translocated pause state (RNA post-translocated, DNA pre-translocated) that can explain transcriptional pausing and a global conformational change of RNAP that allosterically inhibits trigger loop folding and can explain pause hairpin action. Pause hairpin interactions with the RNAP RNA exit channel suggest how RNAP guides the formation of nascent RNA structures.
Project description:The conformational dynamics of the polymorphous trigger loop (TL) in RNA polymerase (RNAP) underlie multiple steps in the nucleotide addition cycle and diverse regulatory mechanisms. These mechanisms include nascent RNA hairpin-stabilized pausing, which inhibits TL folding into the trigger helices (TH) required for rapid nucleotide addition. The nascent RNA pause hairpin forms in the RNA exit channel and promotes opening of the RNAP clamp domain, which in turn stabilizes a partially folded, paused TL conformation that disfavors TH formation. We report that inhibiting TH unfolding with a disulfide crosslink slowed multiround nucleotide addition only modestly but eliminated hairpin-stabilized pausing. Conversely, a substitution that disrupts the TH folding pathway and uncouples establishment of key TH-NTP contacts from complete TH formation and clamp movement allowed rapid catalysis and eliminated hairpin-stabilized pausing. We also report that the active-site distal arm of the TH aids TL folding, but that a 188-aa insertion in the Escherichia coli TL (sequence insertion 3; SI3) disfavors TH formation and stimulates pausing. The effect of SI3 depends on the jaw domain, but not on downstream duplex DNA. Our results support the view that both SI3 and the pause hairpin modulate TL folding in a constrained pathway of intermediate states.
Project description:Transcriptional pausing by RNA polymerase (RNAP) plays an essential role in gene regulation. Pausing is modified by various elongation factors, including prokaryotic NusA, but the mechanisms underlying pausing and NusA function remain unclear. Alternative models for pausing invoke blockade events that precede translocation (on-pathway), enzyme backtracking (off-pathway), or isomerization to a nonbacktracked, elemental pause state (off-pathway). We employed an optical trapping assay to probe the motions of individual RNAP molecules transcribing a DNA template carrying tandem repeats encoding the his pause, subjecting these enzymes to controlled forces. NusA significantly decreased the pause-free elongation rate of RNAP while increasing the probability of entry into short- and long-lifetime pauses, in a manner equivalent to exerting a ~19 pN force opposing transcription. The effects of force and NusA on pause probabilities and lifetimes support a reaction scheme where nonbacktracked, elemental pauses branch off the elongation pathway from the pretranslocated state of RNAP.
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:Bacteriophage Q protein engages ?-dependent paused RNA polymerase (RNAP) by binding to a DNA site embedded in late gene promoter and renders RNAP resistant to termination signals. Here, we report a single-particle cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) structure of an intact Q-engaged arrested complex. The structure reveals key interactions responsible for ?-dependent pause, Q engagement, and Q-mediated transcription antitermination. The structure shows that two Q protomers (QI and QII) bind to a direct-repeat DNA site and contact distinct elements of the RNA exit channel. Notably, QI forms a narrow ring inside the RNA exit channel and renders RNAP resistant to termination signals by prohibiting RNA hairpin formation in the RNA exit channel. Because the RNA exit channel is conserved among all multisubunit RNAPs, it is likely to serve as an important contact site for regulators that modify the elongation properties of RNAP in other organisms, as well.