Background: The processes of DNA supercoiling and transcription are interdependent because the movement of a transcription elongation complex simultaneously induces under- and overwinding of the DNA duplex and because the initiation, elongation and termination steps of transcription are all sensitive to the topological state of the DNA.
Results: Policing of the local and global supercoiling of DNA by topoisomerases helps to sustain the major DNA-based transactions by eliminating barriers to the movement of transcription complexes and replisomes. Recent data from whole-genome and single-molecule studies have provided new insights into how interactions between transcription and the supercoiling of DNA influence the architecture of the chromosome and how they create cell-to-cell diversity at the level of gene expression through transcription bursting.
Conclusions: These insights into fundamental molecular processes reveal mechanisms by which bacteria can prevail in unpredictable and often hostile environments by becoming unpredictable themselves.