Coumermycin A1, a specific inhibitor of DNA gyrase, differentially changes the spectrum of proteins synthesized in wild type E. coli cells but has no effect on the protein spectrum in mutant cells with coumermycin-resistant DNA gyrase. The rpoB265 mutation affecting RNA polymerase decreases the coumermycin A1-sensitivity of bacteria while the rpoC3 mutation increases it. The interaction of wild type and mutant RpoB265 RNA polymerases with ColEl plasmid DNA in vitro is differently affected by DNA supercoiling. No such differences are observed in the case of RpoC3 RNA polymerase. The results suggest that template supercoiling may have a substantial effect on transcription in vivo, an effect which, in some cases, depends on the properties of RNA polymerase.