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Backtracking in an elongation complex
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Description
Above, the 3’ terminus of the transcript is in the active site (denoted by Mg2+).

Below, the enzyme has slipped backward, leaving the transcript terminus at the end of a nonbase-paired RNA tail, some five nucleotides long.

Transcription can resume either by forward sliding of polymerase back to the structure depicted above or, more likely, by cleavage of the non-base-paired part of the transcript, creating a new base-paired 3’ terminus.
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