, Volume 50, Issue 6, pp 925-947

Multi-protein complexes in eukaryotic gene transcription

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Specific transcription initiation by RNA polymerase II at eukaryotic protein-coding genes involves the cooperative assembly at the core promoter of more than 40 distinct proteins – with a total mass of over 2 MDa – including RNA polymerase II itself and general/basal transcription initiation factors, to form a stable pre-initiation complex (PIC). In vivo, PIC assembly is a major point of regulation by sequence-specific transcription regulators (activators and repressors) and is hindered by the packaging of promoter DNA into nucleosomes and higher order chromatin structures. Genetic and biochemical studies have recently identified a variety of transcription cofactors/co-regulators (coactivators and corepressors) that interact with sequence-specific regulators and/or various components of the general/basal transcription machinery and are essential for regulated transcription. An emerging view from these studies is that regulators must target two types of transcription cofactors: chromatin-modifying/remodeling cofactors and general cofactors that associate with and/or influence the activities of components of the general/basal transcription machinery. The recent biochemical identification and characterization of many different chromatin-modifying and general transcription cofactors has revealed their often complex multi-subunit nature and a previously unsuspected level of structural and functional redundancy. Another emerging theme is the multifunctional nature of chromatin-modifying cofactor complexes that appear to couple gene-specific transcription to other cellular processes.