Coliphage HK022 Nun blocks superinfection by coliphage λ by stalling RNA polymerase (RNAP) translocation specifically on λΔNA.To provide a structural framework to understand how Nun blocks RNAP translocation, we determined structures of Escherichia coli RNAP ternary elongation complexes (TECs) with and without Nun by single-particle cryo-electron microscopy. Nun fits tightly into the TEC by taking advantage of gaps between the RNAP and the nucleic acids. The C-terminal segment of Nun interacts with the RNAP β and β’ subunits inside the RNAP active site cleft as well as with nearly every element of the nucleic-acid scaffold, essentially crosslinking the RNAP and the nucleic acids to prevent translocation, a mechanism supported by the effects of Nun amino acid substitutions. The nature of Nun interactions inside the RNAP active site cleft suggests that RNAP clamp opening is required for Nun to establish its interactions, explaining why Nun acts on paused TECs.


If your username is different from your full name, we require you to identify yourself within the comment itself. Comments are checked by a moderator (and/or an eLife editor) before they appear. Comments should be constructive, relevant to the article, conform to our terms and conditions, and include any pertinent competing interests.