Imaging RNA polymerase–amelogenin gene complexes with single molecule resolution using atomic force microscopy

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The AMELX gene encoding the enamel matrix protein, amelogenin, is located within (and in the opposite orientation to) the first intron of the ARHGAP6 gene, which encodes a GTPase-activating protein. The orientation of these two genes with respect to each other raises the possibility that they may undergo simultaneous convergent transcription during amelogenesis. The aim of this study was to use atomic force microscopy (AFM) to study a transcriptionally active amelogenin DNA template and to investigate the binding of RNA polymerase to convergently aligned promoters. Images of RNA polymerases stalled on DNA templates were obtained following incubation of the template with RNA polymerases and ribonucleotide triphosphates. A linear DNA template incorporating an intact rat amelogenin cDNA flanked by convergently aligned coliphage T7 and T3 promoters was constructed and shown to be transcriptionally active in vitro. Atomic force microscopy images of transcription complexes revealed globular structures, corresponding to single RNA polymerase molecules bound at specific locations on the DNA templates. These results indicate that AFM allows the visualization of individual RNA polymerases on DNA templates, offering a realistic approach to investigating the concept of convergent transcription of nested genes, which may lead to an understanding of whether the simultaneous expression of AMELX and ARHGAP6 is possible during the formation of tooth enamel.

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