Spatial organization of transcription in bacterial cells

Trends Genet. 2014 Jul;30(7):287-97. doi: 10.1016/j.tig.2014.04.008. Epub 2014 May 23.


Prokaryotic transcription has been extensively studied over the past half a century. However, there often exists a gap between the structural, mechanistic description of transcription obtained from in vitro biochemical studies, and the cellular, phenomenological observations from in vivo genetic studies. It is now accepted that a living bacterial cell is a complex entity; the heterogeneous cellular environment is drastically different from the homogenous, well-mixed situation in vitro. Where molecules are inside a cell may be important for their function; hence, the spatial organization of different molecular components may provide a new means of transcription regulation in vivo, possibly bridging this gap. In this review, we survey current evidence for the spatial organization of four major components of transcription [genes, transcription factors, RNA polymerase (RNAP) and RNAs] and critically analyze their biological significance.

Keywords: RNA polymerase; chromosome conformation capture; prokaryotic transcription; single molecule; spatial organization; transcription factors.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / genetics*
  • Bacteria / metabolism
  • Chromosomes, Bacterial
  • DNA-Directed RNA Polymerases / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial*
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Protein Biosynthesis
  • RNA Stability
  • RNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • RNA, Bacterial / metabolism
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Transcription, Genetic*


  • RNA, Bacterial
  • Transcription Factors
  • DNA-Directed RNA Polymerases