Functional Architecture of T7 RNA Polymerase Transcription Complexes

Dhananjaya Nayak, Qing Guo, Rui Sousa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Bacteriophage T7 RNA polymerase is the best-characterized member of a widespread family of single-subunit RNA polymerases. Crystal structures of T7 RNA polymerase initiation and elongation complexes have provided a wealth of detailed information on RNA polymerase interactions with the promoter and transcription bubble, but the absence of DNA downstream of the melted region of the template in the initiation complex structure, and the absence of DNA upstream of the transcription bubble in the elongation complex structure means that our picture of the functional architecture of T7 RNA polymerase transcription complexes remains incomplete. Here, we use the site-specifically tethered chemical nucleases and functional characterization of directed T7 RNAP mutants to both reveal the architecture of the duplex DNA that flanks the transcription bubble in the T7 RNAP initiation and elongation complexes, and to define the function of the interactions made by these duplex elements. We find that downstream duplex interactions made with a cluster of lysine residues (K711/K713/K714) are present during both elongation and initiation, where they contribute to stabilizing a bend in the downstream DNA that is important for promoter opening. The upstream DNA in the elongation complex is also found to be sharply bent at the upstream edge of the transcription bubble, thereby allowing formation of upstream duplex:polymerase interactions that contribute to elongation complex stability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)490-500
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Molecular Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 10 2007


  • DNA bending
  • DNA melting
  • RNA polymerase
  • T7 RNA polymerase
  • transcription

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology
  • Molecular Biology


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