Transcription attenuation

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2002 Sep 13;1577(2):240-50. doi: 10.1016/s0167-4781(02)00455-4.


In this review, we describe a variety of mechanisms that bacteria use to regulate transcription elongation in order to control gene expression in response to changes in their environment. Together, these mechanisms are known as attenuation and antitermination, and both involve controlling the formation of a transcription terminator structure in the RNA transcript prior to a structural gene or operon. We examine attenuation and antitermination from the point of view of the different biomolecules that are used to influence the RNA structure. Attenuation of many amino acid biosynthetic operons, particularly in enteric bacteria, is controlled by ribosomes translating leader peptides. RNA-binding proteins regulate attenuation, particularly in gram-positive bacteria such as Bacillus subtilis. Transfer RNA is also used to bind to leader RNAs and influence transcription antitermination in a large number of amino acyl tRNA synthetase genes and several biosynthetic genes in gram-positive bacteria. Finally, antisense RNA is involved in mediating transcription attenuation to control copy number of several plasmids.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acyl-tRNA Synthetases / genetics
  • Bacillus subtilis
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Escherichia coli
  • Peptide Chain Elongation, Translational / genetics
  • Peptide Chain Termination, Translational / genetics
  • Protein Sorting Signals / genetics
  • RNA Polymerase II / metabolism
  • RNA, Antisense / metabolism
  • RNA, Transfer / metabolism
  • RNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Transcription, Genetic / physiology*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Protein Sorting Signals
  • RNA, Antisense
  • RNA-Binding Proteins
  • antiterminator proteins, Bacteria
  • RNA, Transfer
  • RNA Polymerase II
  • Amino Acyl-tRNA Synthetases