Tuning the sequence specificity of a transcription terminator

Michael R. Lawson, James M. Berger

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The bacterial hexameric helicase known as Rho is an archetypal sequence-specific transcription terminator that typically halts the synthesis of a defined set of transcripts, particularly those bearing cytosine-rich 3′-untranslated regions. However, under conditions of translational stress, Rho can also terminate transcription at cytosine-poor sites when assisted by the transcription factor NusG. Recent structural, biochemical, and computational studies of the Rho·NusG interaction in Escherichia coli have helped establish how NusG reprograms Rho activity. NusG is found to be an allosteric activator of Rho that directly binds to the ATPase motor domain of the helicase and facilitates closure of the Rho ring around non-ideal (purine-rich) target RNAs. The manner in which NusG acts on Rho helps to explain how the transcription terminator is excluded from acting on RNA polymerase by exogenous factors, such as the antitermination protein NusE, the NusG paralog RfaH, and RNA polymerase-coupled ribosomes. Collectively, an understanding of the link between NusG and Rho provides new insights into how transcriptional and translational fidelity are maintained during gene expression in bacteria.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)729-733
Number of pages5
JournalCurrent Genetics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2019


  • Hexameric helicase
  • Molecular motors
  • NusG
  • Rho
  • Spt5
  • Transcription
  • Translation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics


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