Exonuclease (Exo) III was used to probe translocation states of RNA polymerase (RNAP) ternary elongation complexes (TECs). Escherichia coli RNAP stalls primarily in a post-translocation register that makes relatively slow excursions to a hyper-translocated state or to a pre-translocated state. Tagetitoxin (TGT) strongly inhibits hyper-translocation and inhibits backtracking, so, as indicated by Exo III mapping, TGT appears to stabilize both the pre- and probably a partially post-translocation state of RNAP. Because the pre-translocated to post-translocated transition is slow at many template positions, these studies appear inconsistent with a model in which RNAP makes frequent and rapid (i.e., millisecond phase) oscillations between pre- and post-translocation states. Nine nucleotides (9-nt) and 10-nt TECs, and TECs with longer nascent RNAs, have distinct translocation properties consistent with a 9-10 nt RNA/DNA hybrid. RNAP mutant proteins in the bridge helix and trigger loop are identified that inhibit or stimulate forward and backward translocation.
Keywords: NTP analogues; RNA polymerase; bridge helix; hyper-translocation; tagetitoxin; translocation; trigger loop.