Transcription through the roadblocks: the role of RNA polymerase cooperation

EMBO J. 2003 Sep 15;22(18):4719-27. doi: 10.1093/emboj/cdg452.


During transcription, cellular RNA polymerases (RNAP) have to deal with numerous potential roadblocks imposed by various DNA binding proteins. Many such proteins partially or completely interrupt a single round of RNA chain elongation in vitro. Here we demonstrate that Escherichia coli RNAP can effectively read through the site-specific DNA-binding proteins in vitro and in vivo if more than one RNAP molecule is allowed to initiate from the same promoter. The anti-roadblock activity of the trailing RNAP does not require transcript cleavage activity but relies on forward translocation of roadblocked complexes. These results support a cooperation model of transcription whereby RNAP molecules behave as 'partners' helping one another to traverse intrinsic and extrinsic obstacles.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • DNA-Directed RNA Polymerases / metabolism*
  • Homeostasis
  • Lac Operon
  • Models, Biological
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutagenesis, Site-Directed
  • Plasmids
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Templates, Genetic
  • Transcription, Genetic / genetics*


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • DNA-Directed RNA Polymerases