Main content area

Productive mRNA stem loop-mediated transcriptional slippage: Crucial features in common with intrinsic terminators

Penno, Christophe, Sharma, Virag, Coakley, Arthur, O’Connell Motherway, Mary, van Sinderen, Douwe, Lubkowska, Lucyna, Kireeva, Maria L., Kashlev, Mikhail, Baranov, Pavel V., Atkins, John F.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2015 v.112 no.16 pp. E1984
DNA-directed RNA polymerase, messenger RNA, protein products, transcription (genetics)
Escherichia coli and yeast DNA-dependent RNA polymerases are shown to mediate efficient nascent transcript stem loop formation-dependent RNA-DNA hybrid realignment. The realignment was discovered on the heteropolymeric sequence T5C5 and yields transcripts lacking a C residue within a corresponding U5C4. The sequence studied is derived from a Roseiflexus insertion sequence (IS) element where the resulting transcriptional slippage is required for transposase synthesis. The stability of the RNA structure, the proximity of the stem loop to the slippage site, the length and composition of the slippage site motif, and the identity of its 3′ adjacent nucleotides (nt) are crucial for transcripts lacking a single C. In many respects, the RNA structure requirements for this slippage resemble those for hairpin-dependent transcription termination. In a purified in vitro system, the slippage efficiency ranges from 5% to 75% depending on the concentration ratios of the nucleotides specified by the slippage sequence and the 3′ nt context. The only previous proposal of stem loop mediated slippage, which was in Ebola virus expression, was based on incorrect data interpretation. We propose a mechanical slippage model involving the RNAP translocation state as the main motor in slippage directionality and efficiency. It is distinct from previously described models, including the one proposed for paramyxovirus, where following random movement efficiency is mainly dependent on the stability of the new realigned hybrid. In broadening the scope for utilization of transcription slippage for gene expression, the stimulatory structure provides parallels with programmed ribosomal frameshifting at the translation level.