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Cell. 1991 May 3;65(3):517-26.

Alteration of the RNA polymerase specificity of U3 snRNA genes during evolution and in vitro.

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Friedrich Miescher-Institut, Basel, Switzerland.


We present evidence that the genes encoding U3 snRNA in plants are transcribed by RNA polymerase III (pol III) and not by RNA polymerase II (pol II) as in vertebrates or lower eukaryotes. The U3 gene is the only known example of a gene transcribed by different polymerases in different organisms. It is possible to convert the plant U3 gene into a functional pol II-transcribed gene by manipulating the spacing between the promoter elements and inserting a pol II-specific termination signal. Pol II-transcribed U3 RNA, containing the 5'-terminal cap different from that present in the wild-type counterpart, is packaged in transfected protoplasts into U3 snRNP precipitable with anti-fibrillarin antibodies. These findings provide further evidence for the common ancestry of the pol II and pol III transcription systems, and indicate that promoter diversification in some genes has occurred relatively recently.

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