Science, Vol.371, No.6524, 44-+, 2021
Steps toward translocation-independent RNA polymerase inactivation by terminator ATPase rho
Factor-dependent transcription termination mechanisms are poorly understood. We determined a series of cryo-electron microscopy structures portraying the hexameric adenosine triphosphatase (ATPase) rho on a pathway to terminating NusA/NusG-modified elongation complexes. An open rho ring contacts NusA, NusG, and multiple regions of RNA polymerase, trapping and locally unwinding proximal upstream DNA. NusA wedges into the rho ring, initially sequestering RNA. Upon deflection of distal upstream DNA over the RNA polymerase zinc-binding domain, NusA rotates underneath one capping rho subunit, which subsequently captures RNA. After detachment of NusG and clamp opening, RNA polymerase loses its grip on the RNA:DNA hybrid and is inactivated. Our structural and functional analyses suggest that rho, and other termination factors across life, may use analogous strategies to allosterically trap transcription complexes in a moribund state.