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Genes Dev. 1995 Dec 1;9(23):2974-85.

The symmetry of the yeast U6 RNA gene's TATA box and the orientation of the TATA-binding protein in yeast TFIIIB.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of California at San Deigo, La Jolla 92093-0634, USA.


The central RNA polymerase III (Pol III) transcription factor TFIIIB is composed of the TATA-binding protein (TBP), Brf, a protein related to TFIIB, and the product of the newly cloned TFC5 gene. TFIIIB assembles autonomously on the upstream promoter of the yeast U6 snRNA (SNR6) gene in vitro, through the interaction of its TBP subunit with a consensus TATA box located at base pair -30. As both the DNA-binding domain of TBP and the U6 TATA box are nearly twofold symmetrical, we have examined how the binding polarity of TFIIIB is determined. We find that TFIIIB can bind to the U6 promoter in both directions, that TBP is unable to discern the natural polarity of the TATA element and that, as a consequence, the U6 TATA box is functionally symmetrical. A modest preference for TFIIIB binding in the natural direction of the U6 promoter is instead dictated by flanking DNA. Because the assembly of TFIIIB on the yeast U6 gene in vivo occurs via a TFIIIC-dependent mechanism, we investigated the influence of TFIIIC on the binding polarity of TFIIIB. TFIIIC places TFIIIB on the promoter in one direction only; thus, it is TFIIIC that primarily specifies the direction of transcription. Experiments using TFIIIB reconstituted with the altered DNA specificity mutant TBPm3 demonstrate that in the TFIIIB-U6 promoter complex, the carboxy-terminal repeat of TBP contacts the upstream half of the TATA box. This orientation of yeast TBP in Pol III promoter-bound TFIIIB is the same as in Pol II promoter-bound TFIID and in TBP-DNA complexes that have been analyzed by X-ray crystallography.

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