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1.  The nucleotide addition cycle of RNA polymerase is controlled by two molecular hinges in the Bridge Helix domain 
BMC Biology  2010;8:134.
Background
Cellular RNA polymerases (RNAPs) are complex molecular machines that combine catalysis with concerted conformational changes in the active center. Previous work showed that kinking of a hinge region near the C-terminus of the Bridge Helix (BH-HC) plays a critical role in controlling the catalytic rate.
Results
Here, new evidence for the existence of an additional hinge region in the amino-terminal portion of the Bridge Helix domain (BH-HN) is presented. The nanomechanical properties of BH-HN emerge as a direct consequence of the highly conserved primary amino acid sequence. Mutations that are predicted to influence its flexibility cause corresponding changes in the rate of the nucleotide addition cycle (NAC). BH-HN displays functional properties that are distinct from BH-HC, suggesting that conformational changes in the Bridge Helix control the NAC via two independent mechanisms.
Conclusions
The properties of two distinct molecular hinges in the Bridge Helix of RNAP determine the functional contribution of this domain to key stages of the NAC by coordinating conformational changes in surrounding domains.
doi:10.1186/1741-7007-8-134
PMCID: PMC2988716  PMID: 21034443
2.  Molecular dynamics and mutational analysis of the catalytic and translocation cycle of RNA polymerase 
BMC Biophysics  2012;5:11.
Background
During elongation, multi-subunit RNA polymerases (RNAPs) cycle between phosphodiester bond formation and nucleic acid translocation. In the conformation associated with catalysis, the mobile “trigger loop” of the catalytic subunit closes on the nucleoside triphosphate (NTP) substrate. Closing of the trigger loop is expected to exclude water from the active site, and dehydration may contribute to catalysis and fidelity. In the absence of a NTP substrate in the active site, the trigger loop opens, which may enable translocation. Another notable structural element of the RNAP catalytic center is the “bridge helix” that separates the active site from downstream DNA. The bridge helix may participate in translocation by bending against the RNA/DNA hybrid to induce RNAP forward movement and to vacate the active site for the next NTP loading. The transition between catalytic and translocation conformations of RNAP is not evident from static crystallographic snapshots in which macromolecular motions may be restrained by crystal packing.
Results
All atom molecular dynamics simulations of Thermus thermophilus (Tt) RNAP reveal flexible hinges, located within the two helices at the base of the trigger loop, and two glycine hinges clustered near the N-terminal end of the bridge helix. As simulation progresses, these hinges adopt distinct conformations in the closed and open trigger loop structures. A number of residues (described as “switch” residues) trade atomic contacts (ion pairs or hydrogen bonds) in response to changes in hinge orientation. In vivo phenotypes and in vitro activities rendered by mutations in the hinge and switch residues in Saccharomyces cerevisiae (Sc) RNAP II support the importance of conformational changes predicted from simulations in catalysis and translocation. During simulation, the elongation complex with an open trigger loop spontaneously translocates forward relative to the elongation complex with a closed trigger loop.
Conclusions
Switching between catalytic and translocating RNAP forms involves closing and opening of the trigger loop and long-range conformational changes in the atomic contacts of amino acid side chains, some located at a considerable distance from the trigger loop and active site. Trigger loop closing appears to support chemistry and the fidelity of RNA synthesis. Trigger loop opening and limited bridge helix bending appears to promote forward nucleic acid translocation.
doi:10.1186/2046-1682-5-11
PMCID: PMC3533926  PMID: 22676913
3.  Structural basis of transcriptional pausing in bacteria 
Cell  2013;152(3):431-441.
SUMMARY
Transcriptional pausing by multi-subunit RNA Polymerases (RNAPs) is a key mechanism for regulating gene expression in both prokaryotes and eukaryotes, and is a prerequisite for transcription termination. Pausing and termination states are thought to arise through a common, elemental pause state that is inhibitory for nucleotide addition. We report three crystal structures of Thermus RNAP elemental paused elongation complexes (ePECs). The structures reveal the same relaxed, open-clamp RNAP conformation in the ePEC that may arise by failure to reestablish DNA contacts during translocation. A kinked bridge-helix sterically blocks the RNAP active site, explaining how this conformation inhibits RNAP catalytic activity. Our results provide a framework for understanding how RNA hairpin formation stabilizes the paused state and how the ePEC intermediate facilitates termination.
doi:10.1016/j.cell.2012.12.020
PMCID: PMC3564060  PMID: 23374340
4.  Activity Map of the Escherichia coli RNA Polymerase Bridge Helix* 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2011;286(16):14469-14479.
Transcription, the synthesis of RNA from a DNA template, is performed by multisubunit RNA polymerases (RNAPs) in all cellular organisms. The bridge helix (BH) is a distinct feature of all multisubunit RNAPs and makes direct interactions with several active site-associated mobile features implicated in the nucleotide addition cycle and RNA and DNA binding. Because the BH has been captured in both kinked and straight conformations in different crystals structures of RNAP, recently supported by molecular dynamics studies, it has been proposed that cycling between these conformations is an integral part of the nucleotide addition cycle. To further evaluate the role of the BH, we conducted systematic alanine scanning mutagenesis of the Escherichia coli RNAP BH to determine its contributions to activities required for transcription. Combining our data with an atomic model of E. coli RNAP, we suggest that alterations in the interactions between the BH and (i) the trigger loop, (ii) fork loop 2, and (iii) switch 2 can help explain the observed changes in RNAP functionality associated with some of the BH variants. Additionally, we show that extensive defects in E. coli RNAP functionality depend upon a single previously not studied lysine residue (Lys-781) that is strictly conserved in all bacteria. It appears that direct interactions made by the BH with other conserved features of RNAP are lost in some of the E. coli alanine substitution variants, which we infer results in conformational changes in RNAP that modify RNAP functionality.
doi:10.1074/jbc.M110.212902
PMCID: PMC3077646  PMID: 21357417
Gene Expression; RNA Polymerase; RNA Synthesis; Transcription; Transcription Initiation Factors; RNA Cleavage
5.  Inhibition of Bacterial Rna Polymerase by Streptolydigin: Stabilization of A Straight-Bridge-Helix Active-Center Conformation 
Cell  2005;122(4):541-552.
We define the target, mechanism, and structural basis of inhibition of bacterial RNA polymerase (RNAP) by the tetramic-acid antibiotic streptolydigin (Stl). Stl binds to a site adjacent to, but not overlapping, the RNAP active center and stabilizes an RNAP-active-center conformational state with a straight bridge helix. The results provide direct support for the proposals that alternative straight-bridge-helix and bent-bridge-helix RNAP-active-center conformations exist, and that cycling between straight-bridge-helix and bent-bridge-helix RNAP-active-center conformations is required for RNAP function. The results set bounds on models for RNAP function and suggest strategies for design of novel antibacterial agents.
doi:10.1016/j.cell.2005.07.017
PMCID: PMC2754413  PMID: 16122422
6.  Conformational coupling, bridge helix dynamics and active site dehydration in catalysis by RNA polymerase 
Biochimica et biophysica acta  2010;1799(8):575-587.
Molecular dynamics simulation of Thermus thermophilus (Tt) RNA polymerase (RNAP) in a catalytic conformation demonstrates that the active site dNMP-NTP base pair must be substantially dehydrated to support full active site closing and optimum conditions for phosphodiester bond synthesis. In silico mutant β R428A RNAP, which was designed based on substitutions at the homologous position (Rpb2 R512) of Saccharomyces cerevisiae (Sc) RNAP II, was used as a reference structure to compare to Tt RNAP in simulations. Long range conformational coupling linking a dynamic segment of the bridge α-helix, the extended fork loop, the active site, and the trigger loop-trigger helix is apparent and adversely affected in β R428A RNAP. Furthermore, bridge helix bending is detected in the catalytic structure, indicating that bridge helix dynamics may regulate phosphodiester bond synthesis as well as translocation. An active site “latch” assembly that includes a key trigger helix residue Tt β’ H1242 and highly conserved active site residues β E445 and R557 appears to help regulate active site hydration/dehydration. The potential relevance of these observations in understanding RNAP and DNAP induced fit and fidelity is discussed.
doi:10.1016/j.bbagrm.2010.05.002
PMCID: PMC2922424  PMID: 20478425
7.  Bridge helix and trigger loop perturbations generate superactive RNA polymerases 
Journal of Biology  2008;7(10):40.
Background
Cellular RNA polymerases are highly conserved enzymes that undergo complex conformational changes to coordinate the processing of nucleic acid substrates through the active site. Two domains in particular, the bridge helix and the trigger loop, play a key role in this mechanism by adopting different conformations at various stages of the nucleotide addition cycle. The functional relevance of these structural changes has been difficult to assess from the relatively small number of static crystal structures currently available.
Results
Using a novel robotic approach we characterized the functional properties of 367 site-directed mutants of the Methanocaldococcus jannaschii RNA polymerase A' subunit, revealing a wide spectrum of in vitro phenotypes. We show that a surprisingly large number of single amino acid substitutions in the bridge helix, including a kink-inducing proline substitution, increase the specific activity of RNA polymerase. Other 'superactivating' substitutions are located in the adjacent base helices of the trigger loop.
Conclusion
The results support the hypothesis that the nucleotide addition cycle involves a kinked bridge helix conformation. The active center of RNA polymerase seems to be constrained by a network of functional interactions between the bridge helix and trigger loop that controls fundamental parameters of RNA synthesis.
doi:10.1186/jbiol98
PMCID: PMC2776397  PMID: 19055851
8.  The RNA polymerase bridge helix YFI motif in catalysis, fidelity and translocation 
Biochimica et biophysica acta  2012;1829(2):187-198.
The bridge α-helix in the β′ subunit of RNA polymerase (RNAP) borders the active site and may have roles in catalysis and translocation. In Escherichia coli RNAP, a bulky hydrophobic segment near the N-terminal end of the bridge helix is identified (β′ 772-YFI-774; the YFI motif). YFI is located at a distance from the active center and adjacent to a glycine hinge (β′ 778-GARKG-782) involved in dynamic bending of the bridge helix. Remarkably, amino acid substitutions in YFI significantly alter intrinsic termination, pausing, fidelity and translocation of RNAP. F773V RNAP largely ignores the λ tR2 terminator at 200 µM NTPs and is strongly reduced in λ tR2 recognition at 1 µM NTPs. F773V alters RNAP pausing and backtracking and favors misincorporation. By contrast, the adjacent Y772A substitution increases fidelity and exhibits other transcriptional defects generally opposite to those of F773V. All atom molecular dynamics simulation revealed two separate functional connections emanating from YFI explaining the distinct effects of substitutions: Y772 communicates with the active site through the link domain in the β subunit, whereas F773 communicates through the fork domain in the β subunit. I774 interacts with the F-loop, which also contacts the glycine hinge of the bridge helix. These results identified negative and positive circuits coupled at YFI and employed for regulation of catalysis, elongation, termination and translocation.
doi:10.1016/j.bbagrm.2012.11.005
PMCID: PMC3619131  PMID: 23202476
RNA polymerase; Bridge helix; Termination; Pausing; Transcriptional fidelity; Translocation
9.  Spt4/5 stimulates transcription elongation through the RNA polymerase clamp coiled-coil motif 
Nucleic Acids Research  2010;38(12):4040-4051.
Spt5 is the only known RNA polymerase-associated factor that is conserved in all three domains of life. We have solved the structure of the Methanococcus jannaschii Spt4/5 complex by X-ray crystallography, and characterized its function and interaction with the archaeal RNAP in a wholly recombinant in vitro transcription system. Archaeal Spt4 and Spt5 form a stable complex that associates with RNAP independently of the DNA–RNA scaffold of the elongation complex. The association of Spt4/5 with RNAP results in a stimulation of transcription processivity, both in the absence and the presence of the non-template strand. A domain deletion analysis reveals the molecular anatomy of Spt4/5—the Spt5 Nus-G N-terminal (NGN) domain is the effector domain of the complex that both mediates the interaction with RNAP and is essential for its elongation activity. Using a mutagenesis approach, we have identified a hydrophobic pocket on the Spt5 NGN domain as binding site for RNAP, and reciprocally the RNAP clamp coiled-coil motif as binding site for Spt4/5.
doi:10.1093/nar/gkq135
PMCID: PMC2896526  PMID: 20197319
10.  The involvement of the aspartate triad of the active center in all catalytic activities of multisubunit RNA polymerase 
Nucleic Acids Research  2005;33(13):4202-4211.
Three conserved aspartate residues in the largest subunit of multisubunit RNA polymerases (RNAPs) coordinate two Mg2+ ions involved in the catalysis of phosphodiester bond synthesis. A structural model based on the stereochemistry of nucleotidyl transfer reaction as well as recent crystallographic data predict that these Mg2+ ions should also be involved in the reverse reaction of pyrophosphorolysis as well as in the endo- and exonucleolytic cleavage of the nascent RNA. Here, we check these predictions by constructing point substitutions of each of the three Asp residues in the β′ subunit of Escherichia coli RNAP and testing the mutant enzymes' functions. Using artificially assembled elongation complexes, we demonstrate that substitutions of any of the three aspartates dramatically reduce all known RNAP catalytic activities, supporting the model's predictions that same amino acids participate in all RNAP catalytic reactions. We demonstrate that though substitutions in the DFDGD motif decrease Mg2+ binding to free RNAP below detection limits, the apparent affinity to Mg2+ in transcription complexes formed by the mutant and wild-type RNAPs is similar, suggesting that NTP substrates and/or nucleic acids actively contribute to the retention of active center Mg2+.
doi:10.1093/nar/gki688
PMCID: PMC1180743  PMID: 16049026
11.  THE RNA POLYMERASE “SWITCH REGION” IS A TARGET FOR INHIBITORS 
Cell  2008;135(2):295-307.
Summary
We report the target, biochemical basis, and structural basis of inhibition of bacterial RNA polymerase (RNAP) by the α-pyrone antibiotic myxopyronin (Myx). We show that Myx interacts with the RNAP “switch region,” the hinge that mediates opening and closing of the RNAP active-center cleft. We show that Myx prevents interaction of RNAP with promoter DNA. We present a crystal structure that defines contacts between Myx and RNAP and defines effects of Myx on RNAP conformation. We propose that Myx functions by preventing opening of the RNAP active-center cleft to permit entry of DNA during transcription initiation (“hinge jamming”). We establish further that the structurally related α-pyrone antibiotic corallopyronin and the structurally unrelated macrocyclic-lactone antibiotic ripostatin function through the same target and same mechanism. The RNAP switch region is an attractive target for identification of new broad-spectrum antibacterial therapeutic agents.
doi:10.1016/j.cell.2008.09.033
PMCID: PMC2580802  PMID: 18957204
12.  Structural Perspective on Mutations Affecting the Function of Multisubunit RNA Polymerases†  
High-resolution crystallographic structures of multisubunit RNA polymerases (RNAPs) have increased our understanding of transcriptional mechanisms. Based on a thorough review of the literature, we have compiled the mutations affecting the function of multisubunit RNA polymerases, many of which having been generated and studied prior to the publication of the first high-resolution structure, and highlighted the positions of the altered amino acids in the structures of both the prokaryotic and eukaryotic enzymes. The observations support many previous hypotheses on the transcriptional process, including the implication of the bridge helix and the trigger loop in the processivity of RNAP, the importance of contacts between the RNAP jaw-lobe module and the downstream DNA in the establishment of a transcription bubble and selection of the transcription start site, the destabilizing effects of ppGpp on the open promoter complex, and the link between RNAP processivity and termination. This study also revealed novel, remarkable features of the RNA polymerase catalytic mechanisms that will require additional investigation, including the putative roles of fork loop 2 in the establishment of a transcription bubble, the trigger loop in start site selection, and the uncharacterized funnel domain in RNAP processivity.
doi:10.1128/MMBR.70.1.12-36.2006
PMCID: PMC1393249  PMID: 16524917
13.  CBR antimicrobials alter coupling between the bridge helix and the β subunit in RNA polymerase 
Nature Communications  2014;5:3408.
Bacterial RNA polymerase (RNAP) is a validated target for antibacterial drugs. CBR703 series antimicrobials allosterically inhibit transcription by binding to a conserved α helix (β′ bridge helix, BH) that interconnects the two largest RNAP subunits. Here we show that disruption of the BH-β subunit contacts by amino-acid substitutions invariably results in accelerated catalysis, slowed-down forward translocation and insensitivity to regulatory pauses. CBR703 partially reverses these effects in CBR-resistant RNAPs while inhibiting catalysis and promoting pausing in CBR-sensitive RNAPs. The differential response of variant RNAPs to CBR703 suggests that the inhibitor binds in a cavity walled by the BH, the β′ F-loop and the β fork loop. Collectively, our data are consistent with a model in which the β subunit fine tunes RNAP elongation activities by altering the BH conformation, whereas CBRs deregulate transcription by increasing coupling between the BH and the β subunit.
Bacterial RNA polymerase (RNAP) is crucial for cellular gene expression and a validated target for antimicrobial drugs. Here, Malinen et al. explore the effects of the CBR class of RNAP inhibitors on the E. coli RNAP transcription cycle and provide detailed mechanistic insight into their antibacterial action.
doi:10.1038/ncomms4408
PMCID: PMC3959191  PMID: 24598909
14.  Direct Modulation of RNA Polymerase Core Functions by Basal Transcription Factors 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2005;25(18):8344-8355.
Archaeal RNA polymerases (RNAPs) are recruited to promoters through the joint action of three basal transcription factors: TATA-binding protein, TFB (archaeal homolog of TFIIB), and TFE (archaeal homolog of TFIIE). Our results demonstrate several new insights into the mechanisms of TFB and TFE during the transcription cycle. (i) The N-terminal Zn ribbon of TFB displays a surprising degree of redundancy for the recruitment of RNAP during transcription initiation in the archaeal system. (ii) The B-finger domain of TFB participates in transcription initiation events by stimulating abortive and productive transcription in a recruitment-independent function. TFB thus combines physical recruitment of the RNAP with an active role in influencing the catalytic properties of RNAP during transcription initiation. (iii) TFB mutations are complemented by TFE, thereby demonstrating that both factors act synergistically during transcription initiation. (iv) An additional function of TFE is to dynamically alter the nucleic acid-binding properties of RNAP by stabilizing the initiation complex and destabilizing elongation complexes.
doi:10.1128/MCB.25.18.8344-8355.2005
PMCID: PMC1234337  PMID: 16135821
15.  The RNA polymerase factory: a robotic in vitro assembly platform for high-throughput production of recombinant protein complexes 
Nucleic Acids Research  2007;36(1):245-252.
The in-depth structure/function analysis of large protein complexes, such as RNA polymerases (RNAPs), requires an experimental platform capable of assembling variants of such enzymes in large numbers in a reproducible manner under defined in vitro conditions. Here we describe a streamlined and integrated protocol for assembling recombinant archaeal RNAPs in a high-throughput 96-well format. All aspects of the procedure including construction of redesigned expression plasmids, development of automated protein extraction/in vitro assembly methods and activity assays were specifically adapted for implementation on robotic platforms. The optimized strategy allows the parallel assembly and activity assay of 96 recombinant RNAPs (including wild-type and mutant variants) with little or no human intervention within 24 h. We demonstrate the high-throughput potential of this system by evaluating the side-chain requirements of a single amino acid position of the RNAP Bridge Helix using saturation mutagenesis.
doi:10.1093/nar/gkm1044
PMCID: PMC2248744  PMID: 18025041
16.  Interplay between the trigger loop and the F loop during RNA polymerase catalysis 
Nucleic Acids Research  2013;42(1):544-552.
The trigger loop (TL) in the RNA polymerase (RNAP) active center plays key roles in the reactions of nucleotide addition and RNA cleavage catalyzed by RNAP. The adjacent F loop (FL) was proposed to contribute to RNAP catalysis by modulating structural changes in the TL. Here, we investigate the interplay between these two elements during transcription by bacterial RNAP. Thermodynamic analysis of catalysis by RNAP variants with mutations in the TL and FL suggests that the TL is the key element required for temperature activation in RNAP catalysis, and that the FL promotes TL transitions during nucleotide addition. We reveal characteristic differences in the catalytic parameters between thermophilic Thermus aquaticus and mesophilic Deinococcus radiodurans RNAPs and identify the FL as an adaptable element responsible for the observed differеnces. Mutations in the FL also significantly affect the rate of intrinsic RNA cleavage in a TL-dependent manner. In contrast, much weaker effects of the FL and TL mutations on GreA-assisted RNA cleavage suggest that the FL-dependent TL transitions are not required for this reaction. Thus, functional interplay between the FL and TL is essential for various catalytic activities of RNAP and plays an adaptive role in catalysis by thermophilic and mesophilic enzymes.
doi:10.1093/nar/gkt877
PMCID: PMC3874190  PMID: 24089145
17.  A novel intermediate in transcription initiation by human mitochondrial RNA polymerase 
Nucleic Acids Research  2014;42(6):3884-3893.
The mitochondrial genome is transcribed by a single-subunit T7 phage-like RNA polymerase (mtRNAP), structurally unrelated to cellular RNAPs. In higher eukaryotes, mtRNAP requires two transcription factors for efficient initiation—TFAM, a major nucleoid protein, and TFB2M, a transient component of mtRNAP catalytic site. The mechanisms behind assembly of the mitochondrial transcription machinery and its regulation are poorly understood. We isolated and identified a previously unknown human mitochondrial transcription intermediate—a pre-initiation complex that includes mtRNAP, TFAM and promoter DNA. Using protein–protein cross-linking, we demonstrate that human TFAM binds to the N-terminal domain of mtRNAP, which results in bending of the promoter DNA around mtRNAP. The subsequent recruitment of TFB2M induces promoter melting and formation of an open initiation complex. Our data indicate that the pre-initiation complex is likely to be an important target for transcription regulation and provide basis for further structural, biochemical and biophysical studies of mitochondrial transcription.
doi:10.1093/nar/gkt1356
PMCID: PMC3973326  PMID: 24393772
18.  Archaeal RNA polymerase and transcription regulation 
To elucidate the mechanism of transcription by cellular RNA polymerases (RNAPs), high resolution X-ray crystal structures together with structure-guided biochemical, biophysical and genetics studies are essential. The recently-solved X-ray crystal structures of archaeal RNA polymerase (RNAP) allow a structural comparison of the transcription machinery among all three domains of life. The archaea were once thought of closely related to bacteria, but they are now considered to be more closely related to the eukaryote at the molecular level than bacteria. According to these structures, the archaeal transcription apparatus, which includes RNAP and general transcription factors, is similar to the eukaryotic transcription machinery. Yet, the transcription regulators, activators and repressors, encoded by archaeal genomes are closely related to bacterial factors. Therefore, archaeal transcription appears to possess an intriguing hybrid of eukaryotic-type transcription apparatus and bacterial-like regulatory mechanisms. Elucidating the transcription mechanism in archaea, which possesses a combination of bacterial and eukaryotic transcription mechanisms that are commonly regarded as separate and mutually exclusive, can provide data that will bring basic transcription mechanisms across all three domains of life.
doi:10.3109/10409238.2010.538662
PMCID: PMC3076279  PMID: 21250781
19.  Evolution of Complex RNA Polymerases: The Complete Archaeal RNA Polymerase Structure 
PLoS Biology  2009;7(5):e1000102.
The archaeal RNA polymerase (RNAP) shares structural similarities with eukaryotic RNAP II but requires a reduced subset of general transcription factors for promoter-dependent initiation. To deepen our knowledge of cellular transcription, we have determined the structure of the 13-subunit DNA-directed RNAP from Sulfolobus shibatae at 3.35 Å resolution. The structure contains the full complement of subunits, including RpoG/Rpb8 and the equivalent of the clamp-head and jaw domains of the eukaryotic Rpb1. Furthermore, we have identified subunit Rpo13, an RNAP component in the order Sulfolobales, which contains a helix-turn-helix motif that interacts with the RpoH/Rpb5 and RpoA′/Rpb1 subunits. Its location and topology suggest a role in the formation of the transcription bubble.
Author Summary
Transcription, the process of converting DNA into RNA (which in turn is translated into proteins by ribosomes) is carried out by the multisubunit RNA polymerase (RNAP) enzyme. Transcription is fundamental to all organisms across the three kingdoms of life—Eukarya, Bacteria, and Archaea—and can be divided into three major steps: initiation, transcription/elongation, and termination. Eukaryotes have three different nuclear RNAPs, whereas Archaea and Bacteria have one. Archaeal transcription is similar to that of eukaryotes, but initiation requires only two accessory proteins bound to DNA: transcription factor B (TFB) and TATA-box binding protein (TBP). It is believed that studies of the archaeal enzyme may shed light on the more complex eukaryotic RNAP. Our complete structure of the archaeal RNAP from Sulfolobus shibatae has fully elucidated its architecture, confirming its close evolutionary relationship with the eukaryotic RNAP II and at the same time revealed a new subunit, Rpo13, with no ortholog in the eukaryotic enzyme. The location and topology of Rpo13 allow us to suggest a mechanism by which Archaea bypass the additional eukaryotic cofactors required for transcription initiation.
The complete archaeal RNA polymerase structure is strikingly similar to the equivalent eukaryotic enzyme. Rpo13, a newly identified archaeal-specific subunit, may explain the minimal set of cofactors required for archaeal transcription initiation.
doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1000102
PMCID: PMC2675907  PMID: 19419240
20.  Structures of RNA polymerase-antibiotic complexes 
Inhibition of bacterial RNA polymerase (RNAP) is an established strategy for antituberculosis therapy and broad-spectrum antibacterial therapy. Crystal structures of RNAP-inhibitor complexes are available for four classes of antibiotics: rifamycins, sorangicin, streptolydigin, and myxopyronin. The structures define three different targets, and three different mechanisms, for inhibition of bacterial RNAP: (1) rifamycins and sorangicin bind near the RNAP active center and block extension of RNA products; (2) streptolydigin interacts with a target that overlaps the RNAP active center and inhibits conformational cycling of the RNAP active center; and (3) myxopyronin interacts with a target remote from the RNAP active center and functions by interfering with opening of the RNAP active-center cleft to permit entry and unwinding of DNA and/or by interfering with interactions between RNAP and the DNA template strand. The structures enable construction of homology models of pathogen RNAP-antibiotic complexes, enable in silico screening for new antibacterial agents, and enable rational design of improved antibacterial agents.
doi:10.1016/j.sbi.2009.10.010
PMCID: PMC2950656  PMID: 19926275
21.  Structural basis for transcription inhibition by tagetitoxin 
Nature structural & molecular biology  2005;12(12):1086-1093.
Tagetitoxin (Tgt) inhibits plastid-encoded, bacterial and some eukaryotic RNA polymerases (RNAPs) by an unknown mechanism. A 2.4Å-resolution structure of the Thermus thermophilus RNAP/Tgt complex revealed that Tgt-binding site within the RNAP secondary channel overlaps with that of the stringent control effector ppGpp, which partially protects RNAP from Tgt inhibition. Tgt binding is mediated exclusively through polar interactions with the β and β′ residues whose substitutions confer resistance to Tgt in vitro. Importantly, a Tgt phosphate, together with two active site acidic residues, coordinates the third Mg2+ ion distinct from the two catalytic metal ions. We show that Tgt inhibits all RNAP catalytic reactions and propose a mechanism in which the Tgt-bound Mg2+ ion plays a key role in stabilization of an inactive transcription intermediate. This and other recent studies suggest that Mg-mediated remodeling of the active site could be a common theme in the regulation of catalysis by nucleic acid enzymes.
doi:10.1038/nsmb1015
PMCID: PMC1790907  PMID: 16273103
22.  Structural basis for DNA-hairpin promoter recognition by the bacteriophage N4 virion RNA polymerase 
Molecular cell  2008;32(5):707-717.
Coliphage N4 virion-encapsidated RNA polymerase (vRNAP) is a member of the phage T7-like single-subunit RNA polymerase (RNAP) family. Its central domain (mini-vRNAP) contains all RNAP functions of the full-length vRNAP, which recognizes a five- to seven-base pair stem and three-nucleotide loop hairpin DNA promoter. Here we report the X-ray crystal structures of mini-vRNAP bound to promoters. Mini-vRNAP uses four structural motifs to recognize DNA sequences at the hairpin loop and stem, and to unwind DNA. Despite their low sequence similarity, three out of four motifs are shared with T7 RNAP that recognizes a double-stranded DNA promoter. The binary complex structure and results of engineered disulfide-linkage experiments reveal that the plug and motif B loop, which block the access of template DNA to the active site in the apo-form mini-vRNAP, undergo a large-scale conformational change upon promoter binding, explaining the restricted promoter specificity that is critical for N4 phage early transcription.
doi:10.1016/j.molcel.2008.11.010
PMCID: PMC2639713  PMID: 19061645
23.  Structural and functional analyses of the interaction of archaeal RNA polymerase with DNA 
Nucleic Acids Research  2012;40(19):9941-9952.
Multi-subunit RNA polymerases (RNAPs) in all three domains of life share a common ancestry. The composition of the archaeal RNAP (aRNAP) is not identical between phyla and species, with subunits Rpo8 and Rpo13 found in restricted subsets of archaea. While Rpo8 has an ortholog, Rpb8, in the nuclear eukaryal RNAPs, Rpo13 lacks clear eukaryal orthologs. Here, we report crystal structures of the DNA-bound and free form of the aRNAP from Sulfolobus shibatae. Together with biochemical and biophysical analyses, these data show that Rpo13 C-terminus binds non-specifically to double-stranded DNA. These interactions map on our RNAP–DNA binary complex on the downstream DNA at the far end of the DNA entry channel. Our findings thus support Rpo13 as a RNAP–DNA stabilization factor, a role reminiscent of eukaryotic general transcriptional factors. The data further yield insight into the mechanisms and evolution of RNAP–DNA interaction.
doi:10.1093/nar/gks692
PMCID: PMC3479171  PMID: 22848102
24.  The Initiation Factor TFE and the Elongation Factor Spt4/5 Compete for the RNAP Clamp during Transcription Initiation and Elongation 
Molecular Cell  2011;43(2-2):263-274.
Summary
TFIIE and the archaeal homolog TFE enhance DNA strand separation of eukaryotic RNAPII and the archaeal RNAP during transcription initiation by an unknown mechanism. We have developed a fluorescently labeled recombinant M. jannaschii RNAP system to probe the archaeal transcription initiation complex, consisting of promoter DNA, TBP, TFB, TFE, and RNAP. We have localized the position of the TFE winged helix (WH) and Zinc ribbon (ZR) domains on the RNAP using single-molecule FRET. The interaction sites of the TFE WH domain and the transcription elongation factor Spt4/5 overlap, and both factors compete for RNAP binding. Binding of Spt4/5 to RNAP represses promoter-directed transcription in the absence of TFE, which alleviates this effect by displacing Spt4/5 from RNAP. During elongation, Spt4/5 can displace TFE from the RNAP elongation complex and stimulate processivity. Our results identify the RNAP “clamp” region as a regulatory hot spot for both transcription initiation and transcription elongation.
Graphical Abstract
Highlights
► The RNAP clamp coiled coil and RNAP stalk are required for TFE binding and activity ► The elongation factor Spt4/5 can inhibit PIC formation and transcription initiation ► TFE efficiently prevents inhibition of transcription initiation by Spt4/5 ► Spt4/5 displaces TFE from the TEC
doi:10.1016/j.molcel.2011.05.030
PMCID: PMC3223566  PMID: 21777815
25.  Hold on! 
RNA biology  2010;7(3):310-315.
Evolutionary related multisubunit RNA polymerases from all three domains of life, Eukarya, Archaea and Bacteria, have common structural and functional properties. We have recently shown that two RNAP subunits, F/E (RPB4/7)—which are conserved between eukaryotes and Archaea but have no bacterial homologues—interact with the nascent RNA chain and thereby profoundly modulate RNAP activity. Overall F/E increases transcription processivity, but it also stimulates transcription termination in a sequence-dependent manner. In addition to RNA-binding, these two apparently opposed processes are likely to involve an allosteric mechanism of the RNAP clamp. Spt4/5 is the only known RNAP-associated transcription factor that is conserved in all three domains of life, and it stimulates elongation similar to RNAP subunits F/E. Spt4/5 enhances processivity in a fashion that is independent of the nontemplate DNA strand, by interacting with the RNAP clamp. Whereas the molecular mechanism of Spt4/5 is universally conserved in evolution, the added functionality of F/E-like complexes has emerged after the split of the bacterial and archaeo-eukaryotic lineages. Interestingly, bacteriophage-encoded antiterminator proteins could, in theory, fulfil an analogous function in the bacterial RNAP.
PMCID: PMC2965726  PMID: 20473037
transcription; RNA polymerase; F/E RPB4/7; Spt4/5; evolution; archaea

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