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Subcell Biochem. 2013;61:211-36. doi: 10.1007/978-94-007-4525-4_10.

Basic mechanisms in RNA polymerase I transcription of the ribosomal RNA genes.

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Wellcome Trust Centre for Gene Regulation and Expression, College of Life Sciences, University of Dundee, Dundee, DD1 5EH, UK.


RNA Polymerase (Pol) I produces ribosomal (r)RNA, an essential component of the cellular protein synthetic machinery that drives cell growth, underlying many fundamental cellular processes. Extensive research into the mechanisms governing transcription by Pol I has revealed an intricate set of control mechanisms impinging upon rRNA production. Pol I-specific transcription factors guide Pol I to the rDNA promoter and contribute to multiple rounds of transcription initiation, promoter escape, elongation and termination. In addition, many accessory factors are now known to assist at each stage of this transcription cycle, some of which allow the integration of transcriptional activity with metabolic demands. The organisation and accessibility of rDNA chromatin also impinge upon Pol I output, and complex mechanisms ensure the appropriate maintenance of the epigenetic state of the nucleolar genome and its effective transcription by Pol I. The following review presents our current understanding of the components of the Pol I transcription machinery, their functions and regulation by associated factors, and the mechanisms operating to ensure the proper transcription of rDNA chromatin. The importance of such stringent control is demonstrated by the fact that deregulated Pol I transcription is a feature of cancer and other disorders characterised by abnormal translational capacity.

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