PerspectiveMolecular Biology

Syntheses That Stay Together

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Science  23 Apr 2010:
Vol. 328, Issue 5977, pp. 436-437
DOI: 10.1126/science.1189971

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An old principle of macromolecular biosynthesis in bacteria is that the speed of protein synthesis (translation) matches that of messenger RNA (mRNA) synthesis (transcription), but how this integration occurs has not been clearly defined. An obvious conjecture is that ribosomes move along the emerging mRNA at whatever speed RNA polymerase goes so that translation and transcription remain coordinated, as it is known to do when conditions change (1). However, on page 504 (2) and 501 (3) of this issue, Proshkin et al. and Burmann et al., respectively, suggest the opposite: Efficient binding and progression of ribosomes along mRNA increase the speed of RNA polymerase, whereas the absence of ribosomes allows the polymerase to slow and wait for ribosomes to catch up.