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Genes Dev. 2006 Nov 1;20(21):2922-36.

Phosphorylation and functions of the RNA polymerase II CTD.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710, USA.


The C-terminal repeat domain (CTD), an unusual extension appended to the C terminus of the largest subunit of RNA polymerase II, serves as a flexible binding scaffold for numerous nuclear factors; which factors bind is determined by the phosphorylation patterns on the CTD repeats. Changes in phosphorylation patterns, as polymerase transcribes a gene, are thought to orchestrate the association of different sets of factors with the transcriptase and strongly influence functional organization of the nucleus. In this review we appraise what is known, and what is not known, about patterns of phosphorylation on the CTD of RNA polymerases II at the beginning, the middle, and the end of genes; the proposal that doubly phosphorylated repeats are present on elongating polymerase is explored. We discuss briefly proteins known to associate with the phosphorylated CTD at the beginning and ends of genes; we explore in more detail proteins that are recruited to the body of genes, the diversity of their functions, and the potential consequences of tethering these functions to elongating RNA polymerase II. We also discuss accumulating structural information on phosphoCTD-binding proteins and how it illustrates the variety of binding domains and interaction modes, emphasizing the structural flexibility of the CTD. We end with a number of open questions that highlight the extent of what remains to be learned about the phosphorylation and functions of the CTD.

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