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J Biol Chem. 2009 May 15;284(20):13641-7. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M900718200. Epub 2009 Mar 23.

A promoter recognition mechanism common to yeast mitochondrial and phage t7 RNA polymerases.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio, Texas 78229, USA.


Yeast mitochondrial (YMt) and phage T7 RNA polymerases (RNAPs) are two divergent representatives of a large family of single subunit RNAPs that are also found in the mitochondria and chloroplasts of higher eukaryotes, mammalian nuclei, and many other bacteriophage. YMt and phage T7 promoters differ greatly in sequence and length, and the YMt RNAP uses an accessory factor for initiation, whereas T7 RNAP does not. We obtain evidence here that, despite these apparent differences, both the YMt and T7 RNAPs utilize a similar promoter recognition loop to bind their respective promoters. Mutations in this element in YMt RNAP specifically disrupt mitochondrial promoter utilization, and experiments with site-specifically tethered chemical nucleases indicate that this element binds the mitochondrial promoter almost identically to how the promoter recognition loop from the phage RNAP binds its promoter. Sequence comparisons reveal that the other members of the single subunit RNAP family display loops of variable sequence and size at a position corresponding to the YMt and T7 RNAP promoter recognition loops. We speculate that these elements may be involved in promoter recognition in most or all of these enzymes and that this element's structure allows it to accommodate significant sequence and length variation to provide a mechanism for rapid evolution of new promoter specificities in this RNAP family.

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