Nucleic acids research

N protein from lambdoid phages transforms NusA into an antiterminator by modulating NusA-RNA polymerase flap domain interactions.

PMID 25990722


Interaction of the lambdoid phage N protein with the bacterial transcription elongation factor NusA is the key component in the process of transcription antitermination. A convex surface of E. coli NusA-NTD, located opposite to its RNA polymerase-binding domain (the β-flap domain), directly interacts with N in the antitermination complex. We hypothesized that this N-NusA interaction induces allosteric effects on the NusA-RNAP interaction leading to transformation of NusA into a facilitator of the antitermination process. Here we showed that mutations in β-flap domain specifically defective for N antitermination exhibited altered NusA-nascent RNA interaction and have widened RNA exit channel indicating an intricate role of flap domain in the antitermination. The presence of N reoriented the RNAP binding surface of NusA-NTD, which changed its interaction pattern with the flap domain. These changes caused significant spatial rearrangement of the β-flap as well as the β' dock domains to form a more constricted RNA exit channel in the N-modified elongation complex (EC), which might play key role in converting NusA into a facilitator of the N antitermination. We propose that in addition to affecting the RNA exit channel and the active center of the EC, β-flap domain rearrangement is also a mechanistic component in the N antitermination process.