RNA polymerases (RNAPs) transcribe genes through a cycle of recruitment to promoter DNA, initiation, elongation, and termination. After termination, RNAP is thought to initiate the next round of transcription by detaching from DNA and rebinding a new promoter. Here we use single-molecule fluorescence microscopy to observe individual RNAP molecules after transcript release at a terminator. Following termination, RNAP almost always remains bound to DNA and sometimes exhibits one-dimensional sliding over thousands of basepairs. Unexpectedly, the DNA-bound RNAP often restarts transcription, usually in reverse direction, thus producing an antisense transcript. Furthermore, we report evidence of this secondary initiation in live cells, using genome-wide RNA sequencing. These findings reveal an alternative transcription cycle that allows RNAP to reinitiate without dissociating from DNA, which is likely to have important implications for gene regulation.
Multiple RNA polymerases (RNAPs) transcribing a gene have been known to exhibit collective group behavior, causing the transcription elongation rate to increase with the rate of transcription initiation. Such behavior has long been believed to be driven by a physical interaction or ‘push’ between closely spaced RNAPs. However, recent studies have posited that RNAPs separated by longer distances may cooperate by modifying the DNA segment under transcription. Here, we present a theoretical model incorporating the mechanical coupling between RNAP translocation and the DNA torsional response. Using stochastic simulations, we demonstrate DNA supercoiling-mediated long-range cooperation between co-transcribing RNAPs. We find that inhibiting transcription initiation can slow down the already recruited RNAPs, in agreement with recent experimental observations, and predict that the average transcription elongation rate varies non-monotonically with the rate of transcription initiation. We further show that while RNAPs transcribing neighboring genes oriented in tandem can cooperate, those transcribing genes in divergent or convergent orientations can act antagonistically, and that such behavior holds over a large range of intergenic separations. Our model makes testable predictions, revealing how the mechanical interplay between RNAPs and the DNA they transcribe can govern transcriptional dynamics.
- Award ID(s):
- Publication Date:
- NSF-PAR ID:
- Journal Name:
- Nucleic Acids Research
- Page Range or eLocation-ID:
- p. 1269-1279
- Oxford University Press
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
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