Real-time characterization of intermediates in the pathway to open complex formation by Escherichia coli RNA polymerase at the T7A1 promoter
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 102(13): 4706-4711
We have used time-resolved x-ray-generated hydroxyl radical footprinting to directly characterize, at single-nucleotide resolution, several intermediates in the pathway to open complex formation by Escherichia coli RNA polymerase on the T7A1 promoter at 37 degrees C. Three sets of intermediates, corresponding to two major conformational changes, are resolved as a function of time; multiple conformations equilibrate amongst each other before the next large structural change. Analysis of these data in the context of published structural models indicates that initial recognition involves interaction of the UP element with the alpha-subunit C-terminal domain and binding of the alpha subunit to the -35 sequence. In the subsequent isomerization step, two complexes with footprints extending into the -10 region can be differentiated as the DNA becomes distorted during nucleation of strand separation. During the final isomerization step, the downstream double helix becomes embedded in the beta/beta' jaws, leading to a transcriptionally active complex.