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Mol Cell Biol. 2000 Aug;20(16):5897-907.

Relief of two built-In autoinhibitory mechanisms in P-TEFb is required for assembly of a multicomponent transcription elongation complex at the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 promoter.

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Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, California 94720-3206, USA.


Tat stimulation of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) transcription requires Tat-dependent recruitment of human positive transcription elongation factor b (P-TEFb) to the HIV-1 promoter and the formation on the trans-acting response element (TAR) RNA of a P-TEFb-Tat-TAR ternary complex. We show here that the P-TEFb heterodimer of Cdk9-cyclin T1 is intrinsically incapable of forming a stable complex with Tat and TAR due to two built-in autoinhibitory mechanisms in P-TEFb. Both mechanisms exert little effect on the P-TEFb-Tat interaction but prevent the P-TEFb-Tat complex from binding to TAR RNA. The first autoinhibition arises from the unphosphorylated state of Cdk9, which establishes a P-TEFb conformation unfavorable for TAR recognition. Autophosphorylation of Cdk9 overcomes this inhibition by inducing conformational changes in P-TEFb, thereby exposing a region in cyclin T1 for possible TAR binding. An intramolecular interaction between the N- and C-terminal regions of cyclin T1 sterically blocks the P-TEFb-TAR interaction and constitutes the second autoinhibitory mechanism. This inhibition is relieved by the binding of the C-terminal region of cyclin T1 to the transcription elongation factor Tat-SF1 and perhaps other cellular factors. Upon release from the intramolecular interaction, the C-terminal region also interacts with RNA polymerase II and is required for HIV-1 transcription, suggesting its role in bridging the P-TEFb-Tat-TAR complex and the basal elongation apparatus. These data reveal novel control mechanisms for the assembly of a multicomponent transcription elongation complex at the HIV-1 promoter.

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