RNA polymerase (RNAP) is a processive molecular motor capable of generating forces of 25-30 pN, far in excess of any other known ATPase. This force derives from the hydrolysis free energy of nucleotides as they are incorporated into the growing RNA chain. The velocity of procession is limited by the rate of pyrophosphate release. Here we demonstrate how nucleotide triphosphate binding free energy can rectify the diffusion of RNAP, and show that this is sufficient to account for the quantitative features of the measured load-velocity curve. Predictions are made for the effect of changing pyrophosphate and nucleotide concentrations and for the statistical behavior of the system.
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