Convergent transcription confers a bistable switch in Enterococcus faecalis conjugation

Anushree Chatterjee, Christopher M. Johnson, Che Chi Shu, Yiannis N. Kaznessis, Doraiswami Ramkrishna, Gary M. Dunny, Wei Shou Hu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Scopus citations


Convergent gene pairs with head-to-head configurations are widespread in both eukaryotic and prokaryotic genomes and are speculated to be involved in gene regulation. Here we present a unique mechanism of gene regulation due to convergent transcription from the antagonistic prgX/prgQ operon in Enterococcus faecalis controlling conjugative transfer of the antibiotic resistance plasmid pCF10 from donor cells to recipient cells. Using mathematical modeling and experimentation, we demonstrate that convergent transcription in the prgX/prgQ operon endows the system with the properties of a robust genetic switch through premature termination of elongating transcripts due to collisions between RNA polymerases (RNAPs) transcribing from opposite directions and antisense regulation between complementary counter-transcripts. Evidence is provided for the presence of truncated RNAs resulting from convergent transcription from both the promoters that are capable of sense-antisense interactions. A mathematical model predicts that both RNAP collision and antisense regulation are essential for a robust bistable switch behavior in the control of conjugation initiation by prgX/prgQ operons. Moreover, given that convergent transcription is conserved across species, the mechanism of coupling RNAP collision and antisense interaction is likely to have a significant regulatory role in gene expression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9721-9726
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number23
StatePublished - Jun 7 2011


  • Gene-regulatory network
  • Inverse expression
  • Overlapping DNA


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