NusA-dependent transcription termination prevents misregulation of global gene expression

Smarajit Mondal, Alexander V. Yakhnin, Aswathy Sebastian, Istvan Albert, Paul Babitzke

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62 Scopus citations


Intrinsic transcription terminators consist of an RNA hairpin followed by a U-rich tract, and these signals can trigger termination without the involvement of additional factors. Although NusA is known to stimulate intrinsic termination in vitro, the in vivo targets and global impact of NusA are not known because it is essential for viability. Using genome-wide 3′ end-mapping on an engineered Bacillus subtilis NusA depletion strain, we show that weak suboptimal terminators are the principle NusA substrates. Moreover, a subclass of weak non-canonical terminators was identified that completely depend on NusA for effective termination. NusA-dependent terminators tend to have weak hairpins and/or distal U-tract interruptions, supporting a model in which NusA is directly involved in the termination mechanism. Depletion of NusA altered global gene expression directly and indirectly via readthrough of suboptimal terminators. Readthrough of NusA-dependent terminators caused misregulation of genes involved in essential cellular functions, especially DNA replication and metabolism. We further show that nusA is autoregulated by a transcription attenuation mechanism that does not rely on antiterminator structures. Instead, NusA-stimulated termination in its 5′ UTR dictates the extent of transcription into the operon, thereby ensuring tight control of cellular NusA levels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number15007
JournalNature Microbiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 11 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Genetics
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Cell Biology


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