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Mol Cell Biol. 2012 Nov;32(22):4691-704. doi: 10.1128/MCB.06267-11. Epub 2012 Sep 17.

Interaction of cyclin-dependent kinase 12/CrkRS with cyclin K1 is required for the phosphorylation of the C-terminal domain of RNA polymerase II.

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Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre, British Columbia Cancer Agency, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.


CrkRS (Cdc2-related kinase, Arg/Ser), or cyclin-dependent kinase 12 (CKD12), is a serine/threonine kinase believed to coordinate transcription and RNA splicing. While CDK12/CrkRS complexes were known to phosphorylate the C-terminal domain (CTD) of RNA polymerase II (RNA Pol II), the cyclin regulating this activity was not known. Using immunoprecipitation and mass spectrometry, we identified a 65-kDa isoform of cyclin K (cyclin K1) in endogenous CDK12/CrkRS protein complexes. We show that cyclin K1 complexes isolated from mammalian cells contain CDK12/CrkRS but do not contain CDK9, a presumed partner of cyclin K. Analysis of extensive RNA-Seq data shows that the 65-kDa cyclin K1 isoform is the predominantly expressed form across numerous tissue types. We also demonstrate that CDK12/CrkRS is dependent on cyclin K1 for its kinase activity and that small interfering RNA (siRNA) knockdown of CDK12/CrkRS or cyclin K1 has similar effects on the expression of a luciferase reporter gene. Our data suggest that cyclin K1 is the primary cyclin partner for CDK12/CrkRS and that cyclin K1 is required to activate CDK12/CrkRS to phosphorylate the CTD of RNA Pol II. These properties are consistent with a role of CDK12/CrkRS in regulating gene expression through phosphorylation of RNA Pol II.

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