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J Biol Chem. 2009 Feb 27;284(9):5514-22. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M807880200. Epub 2008 Dec 30.

Fluorescence mapping of the open complex of yeast mitochondrial RNA polymerase.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Piscataway, New Jersey 08854, USA.

Erratum in

  • J Biol Chem. 2009 Sep 18;284(38):26216.


The mitochondrial RNA polymerase (mtRNAP) of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, consisting of a complex of Rpo41 and Mtf1, is homologous to the phage single polypeptide T7/T3 RNA polymerases. The yeast mtRNAP recognizes a conserved nonanucleotide sequence to initiate specific transcription. In this work, we have defined the region of the nonanucleotide that is melted by the mtRNAP using 2-aminopurine (2AP) fluorescence that is sensitive to changes in base stacking interactions. We show that mtRNAP spontaneously melts the promoter from -4 to +2 forming a bubble around the transcription start site at +1. The location and size of the DNA bubble in this open complex of the mtRNAP closely resembles that of the T7 RNA polymerase. We show that DNA melting requires the simultaneous presence of Rpo41 and Mtf1. Adding the initiating nucleotide ATP does not expand the size of the initially melted DNA, but the initiating nucleotide differentially affects base stacking interactions at -1 and -2. Thus, the promoter structure upstream of the transcription start site is slightly rearranged during early initiation from its structure in the pre-initiation stage. Unlike on the duplex promoter, Rpo41 alone was able to form a competent open complex on a pre-melted promoter. The results indicate that Rpo41 contains the elements for recognizing the melted promoter through interactions with the template strand. We propose that Mtf1 plays a role in base pair disruption during the early stages of open complex formation.

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