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Biol Chem. 1998 Dec;379(12):1397-405.

Recruitment of the RNA polymerase II holoenzyme and its implications in gene regulation.

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Institute of Molecular Biology, University of Zurich, Switzerland.


In yeast cells, interaction between a DNA-bound protein and a single component of the RNA polymerase II (poIII) holoenzyme is sufficient to recruit the latter to a promoter and thereby activate gene transcription. Here we review results which have suggested such a simple mechanism for how genes can be turned on. The series of experiments which eventually led to this model was originally instigated by studying gene expression in a yeast strain which carries a point mutation in Gal11, a component of the poIII holoenzyme. In cells containing this mutant protein termed Gall11P, a derivative of the transcriptional activator Gal4 devoid of any classical activating region is turned into a strong activator. This activating function acquired by an otherwise silent DNA-binding protein is solely due to a novel and fortuitous interaction between Gal11P and a fragment of the Gal4 dimerization region generated by the P mutation. The simplest explanation for these results is that tethering Gal11 to DNA recruits the poIII holoenzyme and, consequently, activates gene transcription. Transcription factors that are believed not to be integral part of the poIII holoenzyme but are nevertheless required for this instance of gene activation, e.g. the TATA-binding TFIID complex, may bind DNA cooperatively with the holoenzyme when recruited to a promoter, thus forming a complete poIII preinitiation complex. One prediction of this model is that recruitment of the entire poIII transcription complex and consequent gene activation can be achieved by tethering different components to DNA. Indeed, fusion of a DNA-binding domain to a variety of poIII holoenzyme components and TFIID subunits leads to activation of genes bearing the recognition site for the DNA-binding protein. These results imply that accessory factors, which are required to remove or modify nucleosomes do not need to be directly contacted by activators, but can rather be engaged in the activation process when the poIII complex is recruited to DNA. In fact, recruitment of the poIII holoenzyme suffices to remodel nucleosomes at the PHO5 promoter and presumably at many other promoters. Other events in the process of gene expression following recruitment of the transcription complex, e.g. initiation, promoter clearance, elongation and termination, could unravel as a consequence of the recruitment step and the formation of an active preinitiation complex on DNA. This view does not exclude the possibility that classical activators also act directly on chromatin remodeling and post-recruitment steps to regulate gene expression.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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