Molecular dynamics studies of the energetics of translocation in model T7 RNA polymerase elongation complexes

Hyung June Woo, Yuemin Liu, Rui Sousa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Translocation in the single subunit T7 RNA polymerase elongation complex was studied by molecular dynamics simulations using the posttranslocated crystal structure with the fingers domain open, an intermediate stable in the absence of pyrophosphate, magnesium ions, and nucleotide substrate. Unconstrained and umbrella sampling simulations were performed to examine the energetics of translocations. The extent of translocation was quantified using reaction coordinates representing the average and individual displacements of the RNA-DNA hybrid base pairs with respect to a reference structure. In addition, an unconstrained simulation was also performed for the product complex with the fingers domain closed, but with the pyrophosphate and magnesium removed, in order to examine the local stability of the pretranslocated closed state after the pyrophosphate release. The average spatial movement of the entire hybrid was found to be energetically costly in the post- to pretranslocated direction in the open state, while the pretranslocated state was stable in the closed complex, supporting the notion that the conformational state dictates the global stability of translocation states. However, spatial fluctuations of the RNA 3′-end in the open conformation were extensive, with the typical range reaching 3-4 Å. Our results suggest that thermal fluctuations play more important roles in the translocation of individual nucleotides than in the movement of large sections of nucleotide strands: RNA 3′-end can move into and out of the active site within a single conformational state, while a global movement of the hybrid may be thermodynamically unfavorable without the conformational change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1021-1036
Number of pages16
JournalProteins: Structure, Function and Genetics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2008


  • Elongation phase
  • Free-energy
  • Molecular dynamics
  • RNA polymerase
  • Translocation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Molecular dynamics studies of the energetics of translocation in model T7 RNA polymerase elongation complexes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this