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During transcription initiation, RNA polymerase (RNAP) binds and unwinds promoter DNA to form an RNAP-promoter open complex. We have determined crystal structures at 2.9 and 3.0 Å resolution of functional transcription initiation complexes comprising Thermus thermophilus RNA polymerase, σ(A), and a promoter DNA fragment corresponding to the transcription bubble and downstream double-stranded DNA of the RNAP-promoter open complex. The structures show that σ recognizes the -10 element and discriminator element through interactions that include the unstacking and insertion into pockets of three DNA bases and that RNAP recognizes the -4/+2 region through interactions that include the unstacking and insertion into a pocket of the +2 base. The structures further show that interactions between σ and template-strand single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) preorganize template-strand ssDNA to engage the RNAP active center.

Citation

Yu Zhang, Yu Feng, Sujoy Chatterjee, Steve Tuske, Mary X Ho, Eddy Arnold, Richard H Ebright. Structural basis of transcription initiation. Science (New York, N.Y.). 2012 Nov 23;338(6110):1076-80

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PMID: 23086998

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