RNA Polymerase Collision versus DNA Structural Distortion: Twists and Turns Can Cause Break Failure

Mol Cell. 2016 May 5;62(3):327-334. doi: 10.1016/j.molcel.2016.03.034.


The twisting of DNA due to the movement of RNA polymerases is the basis of numerous classic experiments in molecular biology. Recent mouse genetic models indicate that chromosomal breakage is common at sites of transcriptional turbulence. Two key studies on this point mapped breakpoints to sites of either convergent or divergent transcription but arrived at different conclusions as to which is more detrimental and why. The issue hinges on whether DNA strand separation is the basis for the chromosomal instability or collision of RNA polymerases.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / genetics
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / metabolism
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / pathology
  • Chromosomal Instability*
  • DNA / chemistry
  • DNA / metabolism*
  • DNA Damage*
  • DNA, Bacterial / chemistry
  • DNA, Bacterial / metabolism
  • DNA, Fungal / chemistry
  • DNA, Fungal / metabolism
  • DNA-Directed RNA Polymerases / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Models, Genetic
  • Neoplasms / enzymology
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation
  • Transcription, Genetic*


  • DNA, Bacterial
  • DNA, Fungal
  • DNA
  • DNA-Directed RNA Polymerases