Blackwell Publishing Journal Backfiles 1879-2005
The N gene product of coliphage λ, with a number of host proteins (Nus factors), regulates phage gene expression by modifying RNA polymerase to a form that overrides transcription-termination signals. Mutations in host nus genes diminish this N-mediated antitermination. Here, we report the isolation and characterization of the rpoAD305E mutation, a single amino acid change in the carboxy terminal domain (CTD) of the α subunit of RNA polymerase, that enhances N-mediated antitermination. A deletion of the 3′ terminus of rpoA, resulting in the expression of an α subunit missing the CTD, also enhances N-mediated antitermination and, similar to rpoAD305E, suppresses the effect of nus mutations. Thus, the N–Nus complex may be affected through contacts with the CTD of the α subunit of RNA polymerase, as is a group of regulatory proteins that influences initiation of transcription. What distinguishes our findings on the N–Nus complex from those of previous studies with transcription proteins is that all of the regulators characterized in those studies bind DNA and influence transcription initiation; whereas the N–Nus complex binds RNA and affects transcription elongation. A screen of some previously identified rpoA mutations that influence transcription activators revealed only one other amino acid change, L290H, in the CTD of the α subunit, that influences antitermination. Although our results provide evidence that interactions of the α subunit of RNA polymerase must be considered in forming models of transcription antitermination, they do not provide information as to whether the interactions of α that ultimately influence antitermination occur during initiation or during elongation of transcription.
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