Termination and antitermination: RNA polymerase runs a stop sign

Nat Rev Microbiol. 2011 May;9(5):319-29. doi: 10.1038/nrmicro2560. Epub 2011 Apr 11.


Termination signals induce rapid and irreversible dissociation of the nascent transcript from RNA polymerase. Terminators at the end of genes prevent unintended transcription into the downstream genes, whereas terminators in the upstream regulatory leader regions adjust expression of the structural genes in response to metabolic and environmental signals. Premature termination within an operon leads to potentially deleterious defects in the expression of the downstream genes, but also provides an important surveillance mechanism. This Review discusses the actions of bacterial and phage antiterminators that allow RNA polymerase to override a terminator when the circumstances demand it.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / genetics*
  • Bacteria / metabolism
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Bacteriophages / genetics*
  • Bacteriophages / metabolism
  • DNA-Directed RNA Polymerases / metabolism*
  • RNA, Transfer / metabolism
  • RNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Ribosomes / metabolism
  • Terminator Regions, Genetic
  • Transcription, Genetic*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • RNA-Binding Proteins
  • antiterminator proteins, Bacteria
  • RNA, Transfer
  • DNA-Directed RNA Polymerases