New Insights into Transcription Fidelity: Thermal Stability of Non-Canonical Structures in Template DNA Regulates Transcriptional Arrest, Pause, and Slippage

>The thermal stability and topology of non-canonical structures of G-quadruplexes and hairpins in template DNA were investigated, and the effect of non-canonical structures on transcription fidelity was evaluated quantitatively. We designed ten template DNAs: A linear sequence that does not have significant higher-order structure, three sequences that form hairpin structures, and six sequences that form G-quadruplex structures with different stabilities. Templates with non-canonical structures induced the production of an arrested, a slipped, and a full-length transcript, whereas the linear sequence produced only a full-length transcript. The efficiency of production for run-off transcripts (full-length and slipped transcripts) from templates that formed the non-canonical structures was lower than that from the linear. G-quadruplex structures were more effective inhibitors of full-length product formation than were hairpin structure even when the stability of the G-quadruplex in an aqueous solution was the same as that of the hairpin. We considered that intra-polymerase conditions may differentially affect the stability of non-canonical structures. The values of transcription efficiencies of run-off or arrest transcripts were correlated with stabilities of non-canonical structures in the intra-polymerase condition mimicked by 20 wt% polyethylene glycol (PEG). Transcriptional arrest was induced when the stability of the G-quadruplex structure (−ΔGo37) in the presence of 20 wt% PEG was more than 8.2 kcal mol−1. Thus, values of stability in the presence of 20 wt% PEG are an important indicator of transcription perturbation. Our results further our understanding of the impact of template structure on the transcription process and may guide logical design of transcription-regulating drugs.

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