By using micro disc electrophoresis and micro-diffusion techniques, the interaction of pure DNA-dependent RNA polymerase (EC from Escherichia coli with the template, the substrates and the inhibitors heparin and rifampicin was investigated. The following findings were obtained: (1) heparin converts the 24S and 18S particles of the polymerase into the 13S form; (2) heparin inhibits RNA synthesis by dissociating the enzyme–template complex; (3) rifampicin does not affect the attachment of heparin to the enzyme; (4) the substrates ATP and UTP are bound by enzyme loaded with rifampicin; (5) rifampicin is bound by an enzyme–template complex to the same extent as by an RNA-synthesizing enzyme–template complex. From this it is concluded that the mechanism of the inhibition of RNA synthesis by rifampicin is radically different from that by heparin. As a working hypothesis to explain the inhibitory mechanism of rifampicin, it is assumed that it becomes very firmly attached to a position close to the synthesizing site and only blocks this when no synthesis is in progress.

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