Np4A alarmones function in bacteria as precursors to RNA caps

Daniel J. Luciano, Joel G. Belasco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Stresses that increase the cellular concentration of dinucleoside tetraphosphates (Np4Ns) have recently been shown to impact RNA degradation by inducing nucleoside tetraphosphate (Np4) capping of bacterial transcripts. However, neither the mechanism by which such caps are acquired nor the function of Np4Ns in bacteria is known. Here we report that promoter sequence changes upstream of the site of transcription initiation similarly affect both the efficiency with which Escherichia coli RNA polymerase incorporates dinucleoside polyphosphates at the 5′ end of nascent transcripts in vitro and the percentage of transcripts that are Np4-capped in E. coli, clear evidence for Np4 cap acquisition by Np4N incorporation during transcription initiation in bacterial cells. E. coli RNA polymerase initiates transcription more efficiently with Np4As than with ATP, particularly when the coding strand nucleotide that immediately precedes the initiation site is a purine. Together, these findings indicate that Np4Ns function in bacteria as precursors to Np4 caps and that RNA polymerase has evolved a predilection for synthesizing capped RNA whenever such precursors are abundant.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3560-3567
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number7
StatePublished - 18 Feb 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • ApA
  • ApA
  • ApaH
  • Diadenosine tetraphosphate
  • Non-canonical initiating nucleotide


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