Opposite consequences of two transcription pauses caused by an intrinsic terminator oligo(U): antitermination versus termination by bacteriophage T7 RNA polymerase.

Research paper by Sooncheol S Lee, Changwon C Kang

Indexed on: 15 Mar '11Published on: 15 Mar '11Published in: Journal of Biological Chemistry


The RNA oligo(U) sequence, along with an immediately preceding RNA hairpin structure, is an essential cis-acting element for bacterial class I intrinsic termination. This sequence not only causes a pause in transcription during the beginning of the termination process but also facilitates transcript release at the end of the process. In this study, the oligo(U) sequence of the bacteriophage T7 intrinsic terminator Tφ, rather than the hairpin structure, induced pauses of phage T7 RNA polymerase not only at the termination site, triggering a termination process, but also 3 bp upstream, exerting an antitermination effect. The upstream pause presumably allowed RNA to form a thermodynamically more stable secondary structure rather than a terminator hairpin and to persist because the 5'-half of the terminator hairpin-forming sequence could be sequestered by a farther upstream sequence via sequence-specific hybridization, prohibiting formation of the terminator hairpin and termination. The putative antiterminator RNA structure lacked several base pairs essential for termination when probed using RNases A, T1, and V1. When the antiterminator was destabilized by incorporation of IMP into nascent RNA at G residue positions, antitermination was abolished. Furthermore, antitermination strength increased with more stable antiterminator secondary structures and longer pauses. Thus, the oligo(U)-mediated pause prior to the termination site can exert a cis-acting antitermination activity on intrinsic terminator Tφ, and the termination efficiency depends primarily on the termination-interfering pause that precedes the termination-facilitating pause at the termination site.