PerspectiveMolecular Biology

Molecular basis of transcription pausing

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Science  13 Jun 2014:
Vol. 344, Issue 6189, pp. 1226-1227
DOI: 10.1126/science.1255712

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During RNA synthesis, RNA polymerase moves erratically along DNA, frequently resting as it produces an RNA copy of the DNA sequence. Such pausing helps coordinate the appearance of a transcript with its utilization by cellular processes; to this end, the movement of RNA polymerase is modulated by mechanisms that determine its rate. For example, pausing is critical to regulatory activities of the enzyme such as the termination of transcription. It is also essential during early modifications of eukaryotic RNA polymerase II that activate the enzyme for elongation. Two reports analyzing transcription pausing on a global scale in Escherichia coli, by Larson et al. (1) and by Vvedenskaya et al. (2) on page 1285 of this issue, suggest new functions of pausing and reveal important aspects of its molecular basis.