The mechanism of the nucleo-sugar selection by multi-subunit RNA polymerases

Janne J. Mäkinen, Yeonoh Shin, Eeva Vieras, Pasi Virta, Mikko Metsä-Ketelä, Katsuhiko S. Murakami, Georgiy A. Belogurov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


RNA polymerases (RNAPs) synthesize RNA from NTPs, whereas DNA polymerases synthesize DNA from 2′dNTPs. DNA polymerases select against NTPs by using steric gates to exclude the 2′OH, but RNAPs have to employ alternative selection strategies. In single-subunit RNAPs, a conserved Tyr residue discriminates against 2′dNTPs, whereas selectivity mechanisms of multi-subunit RNAPs remain hitherto unknown. Here, we show that a conserved Arg residue uses a two-pronged strategy to select against 2′dNTPs in multi-subunit RNAPs. The conserved Arg interacts with the 2′OH group to promote NTP binding, but selectively inhibits incorporation of 2′dNTPs by interacting with their 3′OH group to favor the catalytically-inert 2′-endo conformation of the deoxyribose moiety. This deformative action is an elegant example of an active selection against a substrate that is a substructure of the correct substrate. Our findings provide important insights into the evolutionary origins of biopolymers and the design of selective inhibitors of viral RNAPs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number796
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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