The Clash of Macromolecular Titans: Replication-Transcription Conflicts in Bacteria

Kevin S. Lang, Houra Merrikh

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Within the last decade, it has become clear that DNA replication and transcription are routinely in conflict with each other in growing cells. Much of the seminal work on this topic has been carried out in bacteria, specifically, Escherichia coli and Bacillus subtilis; therefore, studies of conflicts in these species deserve special attention. Collectively, the recent findings on conflicts have fundamentally changed the way we think about DNA replication in vivo. Furthermore, new insights on this topic have revealed that the conflicts between replication and transcription significantly influence many key parameters of cellular function, including genome organization, mutagenesis, and evolution of stress response and virulence genes. In this review, we discuss the consequences of replication-transcription conflicts on the life of bacteria and describe some key strategies cells use to resolve them. We put special emphasis on two critical aspects of these encounters: (a) the consequences of conflicts on replisome stability and dynamics, and (b) the resulting increase in spontaneous mutagenesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)71-88
Number of pages18
JournalAnnual Review of Microbiology
StatePublished - Sep 8 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank Christopher Merrikh and Maureen Thomason, as well as the anonymous reviewers, for critical discussions and review of this manuscript. K.S.L. is supported by an NIH Training Grant (AI055396), and H.M. is supported by the NIH New Innovator award (DP2GM110773).

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2018 by Annual Reviews. All rights reserved.


  • DNA replication
  • transcription replication-transcription conflicts


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