How gene transcription navigates roadblocks

RNA polymerase is an enzyme that catalyzes gene transcription, the first step in the process of turning a DNA sequence into proteins, the components of cellular machinery and structure. The journal, FEBS Letters, featured research led by Professor of Physics, Laura Finzi, showing how RNA polymerase navigates “roadblocks” along template DNA, that are composed of wraps and loops in the DNA created by DNA-binding proteins.
The researchers used atomic force microscopy to show that one type of representative DNA-binding protein wraps DNA into a wheel shape, while another forms a loop. The same technique was used to follow the progress of RNA polymerase through these protein-induced DNA shapes. The results showed how RNA polymerase manages to negotiate the roadblocks formed by these proteins, regardless of protein-DNA binding affinity.
The insight into mechanisms of gene transcription represents a step toward understanding roles in diseases like cancer, and contributes to the design of synthetic regulatory circuits to control gene expression.
Co-authors of the study include post-doctoral fellows, Yue Lu and Zsuzsanna Voros, former Emory undergraduates Gustavo Borjas and Cristin Hendrickson, Emory senior scientist David Dunlap, and Professor Keith Shearwin from the University of Adelaide, Australia.
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