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Investigation of Bacterial Transcription using Single Molecule Techniques


The numerous complex molecular processes occurring inside living cells are primarily carried out by proteins and other biopolymers, such as ribonucleic acids (RNA). The identity and quantity of the different proteins and RNA determine the cell's phenotype and changes in response to the environment. Therefore, the internal composition of the cell in terms of the type and concentration of proteins and RNA is tightly regulated. Gene expression is the process of using the DNA sequence information to produce these biopolymers. Transcription, the initial step in gene expression, where one strand of DNA is used as template by the enzyme RNA polymerase (RNAP) for synthesizing a complementary RNA or transcript. Since cell phenotype is mostly determined by transcription, a complex regulatory mechanism exists involving a large number of factors to control the level of transcription of a gene. Although most studies are focused on multiple cycles of either transcription or association of DNA and RNA Polymerase (RNAP) to make RNAP-Promoter open complex (RPO), single round transcription studies are crucial in elucidating the mechanism of sophisticated RNAP-DNA interactions and its kinetics in transcription. In this context, we have developed a novel in vitro quenching based single round transcription assay using single molecule detection. Using this, we could successfully dissect initiation kinetics starting from different initial transcribing stages and found that transcription initiation doesn’t follow a sequential model (as commonly believed). Instead, we identified a previously uncharacterized state that is unique to initial transcribing complexes and associated with the backtracked RNAP-DNA complex. Also, we have investigated the size/concentration effects of various osmolytes and macromolecular crowding agents, which mimic the crowded cellular environment, on actively-transcribing RNAP and found enhancement in transcription kinetics by larger crowding agents at the same viscosity.

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