Universally high transcript error rates in bacteria

Weiyi Li, Michael Lynch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Errors can occur at any level during the replication and transcription of genetic information. Genetic mutations derived mainly from replication errors have been extensively studied. However, fundamental details of transcript errors, such as their rate, molecular spectrum, and functional effects, remain largely unknown. To globally identify transcript errors, we applied an adapted rolling-circle sequencing approach to Escherichia coli, Bacillus subtilis, Agrobacterium tumefaciens, and Mesoplasma florum, revealing transcript-error rates 3 to 4 orders of magnitude higher than the corresponding genetic mutation rates. The majority of detected errors would result in amino-acid changes, if translated. With errors identified from 9929 loci, the molecular spectrum and distribution of errors were uncovered in great detail. A GfiA substitution bias was observed in M. florum, which apparently has an error-prone RNA polymerase. Surprisingly, an increased frequency of nonsense errors towards the 30 end of mRNAs was observed, suggesting a Nonsense-Mediated Decay-like quality-control mechanism in prokaryotes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere54898
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
StatePublished - May 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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