Advancement of RNA polymerase of E. coli occurs in alternating laps of monotonic and inchworm-like movement. Cycles of inchworming are encoded in DNA and involve straining and relaxation of the ternary complex accompanied by characteristic leaping of DNA and RNA footprints. We demonstrate that the oligo(T) tract that constitutes a normal part of transcription terminators acts as an inchworming signal so that the leap coincides with the termination event. Prevention of leaping with a roadblock of cleavage-defective EcoRI protein results in suppression of RNA chain release at a termination site. The results indicate that straining and relaxation of RNA polymerase are steps in the termination mechanism.