A code for transcription elongation speed

Eyal Cohen, Zohar Zafrir, Tamir Tuller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The two major steps of gene expression are transcription and translation. While hundreds of studies regarding the effect of sequence features on the translation elongation process have been published, very few connect sequence features to the transcription elongation rate. We suggest, for the first time, that short transcript sub-sequences have a typical effect on RNA polymerase (RNAP) speed: we show that nucleotide 5-mers tend to have typical RNAP speed (or transcription rate), which is consistent along different parts of genes and among different groups of genes with high correlation. We also demonstrate that relative RNAP speed correlates with mRNA levels of endogenous and heterologous genes. Furthermore, we show that the estimated transcription and translation elongation rates correlate in endogenous genes. Finally, we demonstrate that our results are consistent for different high resolution experimental measurements of RNAP densities. These results suggest for the first time that transcription elongation is partly encoded in the transcript, affected by the codon-usage, and optimized by evolution with a significant effect on gene expression and organismal fitness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-94
Number of pages14
JournalRNA Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2 Jan 2018


  • RNA polymerase
  • Transcription elongation
  • codon-usage bias
  • transcript evolution


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