Collision events between RNA polymerases in convergent transcription studied by atomic force microscopy

Nucleic Acids Res. 2006;34(19):5416-25. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkl668. Epub 2006 Sep 29.


Atomic force microscopy (AFM) has been used to image, at single molecule resolution, transcription events by Escherichia coli RNA polymerase (RNAP) on a linear DNA template with two convergently aligned lambda(pr) promoters. For the first time experimentally, the outcome of collision events during convergent transcription by two identical RNAP has been studied. Measurement of the positions of the RNAP on the DNA, allows distinction of open promoter complexes (OPCs) and elongating complexes (EC) and collided complexes (CC). This discontinuous time-course enables subsequent analysis of collision events where both RNAP remain bound on the DNA. After collision, the elongating RNAP has caused the other (usually stalled) RNAP to back-track along the template. The final positions of the two RNAP indicate that these are collisions between an EC and a stalled EC (SEC) or OPC (previously referred to as sitting-ducks). Interestingly, the distances between the two RNAP show that they are not always at closest approach after 'collision' has caused their arrest.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • DNA / chemistry
  • DNA / ultrastructure*
  • DNA-Directed RNA Polymerases / metabolism
  • DNA-Directed RNA Polymerases / ultrastructure*
  • Escherichia coli / enzymology
  • Microscopy, Atomic Force
  • Models, Genetic
  • Templates, Genetic
  • Transcription, Genetic*


  • DNA
  • DNA-Directed RNA Polymerases