Proofreading of misincorporated nucleotides in DNA transcription

Margaritis Voliotis*, Netta Cohen, Carmen Molina-París, Tanniemola B. Liverpool

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The accuracy of DNA transcription is crucial for the proper functioning of the cell. Although RNA polymerases demonstrate selectivity for correct nucleotides, additional active mechanisms of transcriptional error correction are required to achieve observed levels of fidelity. Recent experimental findings have shed light on a particular mechanism of transcriptional error correction involving: (i) diffusive translocation of the RNA polymerase along the DNA (backtracking) and (ii) irreversible RNA cleavage. This mechanism achieves preferential cleavage of misincorporated nucleotides by biasing the local rates of translocation. Here, we study how misincorporated nucleotides affect backtracking dynamics and how this effect determines the level of transcriptional fidelity. We consider backtracking as a diffusive process in a periodic, one-dimensional energy landscape, which at a coarse-grained level gives rise to a hopping process between neighboring local minima. We propose a model for how misincorporated nucleotides deform this energy landscape and hence affect the hopping rates. In particular, we show that this model can be used to derive both the theoretical limit on the fidelity (i.e. the minimum fraction of misincorporated nucleotides) and the actual fidelity relative to this optimum, achieved for specific combinations of the cleavage and polymerization rates. Finally, we study how external factors influencing backtracking dynamics affect transcriptional fidelity. We show that biologically relevant loads, similar to those exerted by nucleosomes or other transcriptional barriers, increase error correction.

Original languageEnglish
Article number036007
JournalPhysical Biology
Volume9
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2012

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