Indexed on: 24 Nov '17Published on: 24 Nov '17Published in: eLife
During transcription initiation, RNA polymerase (RNAP) binds to promoter DNA, unwinds promoter DNA to form an RNAP-promoter open complex (RPo) containing a single-stranded 'transcription bubble,' and selects a transcription start site (TSS). TSS selection occurs at different positions within the promoter region, depending on promoter sequence and initiating-substrate concentration. Variability in TSS selection has been proposed to involve DNA 'scrunching' and 'anti-scrunching,' the hallmarks of which are: (i) forward and reverse movement of the RNAP leading edge, but not trailing edge, relative to DNA, and (ii) expansion and contraction of the transcription bubble. Here, using in vitro and in vivo protein-DNA photocrosslinking and single-molecule nanomanipulation, we show bacterial TSS selection exhibits both hallmarks of scrunching and anti-scrunching, and we define energetics of scrunching and anti-scrunching. The results establish the mechanism of TSS selection by bacterial RNAP and suggest a general mechanism for TSS selection by bacterial, archaeal, and eukaryotic RNAP.