Single-molecule analysis reveals the mechanism of transcription activation in M. tuberculosis

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science Advances  23 May 2018:
Vol. 4, no. 5, eaao5498
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aao5498


The σ subunit of bacterial RNA polymerase (RNAP) controls recognition of the −10 and −35 promoter elements during transcription initiation. Free σ adopts a “closed,” or inactive, conformation incompatible with promoter binding. The conventional two-state model of σ activation proposes that binding to core RNAP induces formation of an “open,” active, σ conformation, which is optimal for promoter recognition. Using single-molecule Förster resonance energy transfer, we demonstrate that vegetative-type σ subunits exist in open and closed states even after binding to the RNAP core. As an extreme case, RNAP from Mycobacterium tuberculosis preferentially retains σ in the closed conformation, which is converted to the open conformation only upon binding by the activator protein RbpA and interaction with promoter DNA. These findings reveal that the conformational dynamics of the σ subunit in the RNAP holoenzyme is a target for regulation by transcription factors and plays a critical role in promoter recognition.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

View Full Text

Stay Connected to Science Advances