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Cold Spring Harb Symp Quant Biol. 2010;75:1-9. doi: 10.1101/sqb.2010.75.039. Epub 2011 Apr 5.

Drosophila heat shock system as a general model to investigate transcriptional regulation.

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Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA.


Whereas the regulation of a gene is uniquely tailored to respond to specific biological needs, general transcriptional mechanisms are used by diversely regulated genes within and across species. The primary mode of regulation is achieved by modulating specific steps in the transcription cycle of RNA polymerase II (Pol II). Pol II "pausing" has recently been identified as a prevalent rate-limiting and regulated step in the transcription cycle. Many sequence-specific transcription factors (TFs) modulate the duration of the pause by directly or indirectly recruiting positive transcription elongation factor b (P-TEFb) kinase, which promotes escape of Pol II from the pause into productive elongation. These specialized TFs find their target-binding sites by discriminating between DNA sequence elements based on the chromatin context in which these elements reside and can result in productive changes in gene expression or nonfunctional "promiscuous" binding. The binding of a TF can precipitate drastic changes in chromatin architecture that can be both dependent and independent of active Pol II transcription. Here, we highlight heat-shock-mediated gene transcription as a model system in which to study common mechanistic features of gene regulation.

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