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50+ years of eukaryotic transcription: an expanding universe of factors and mechanisms

Abstract

The landmark 1969 discovery of nuclear RNA polymerases I, II and III in diverse eukaryotes represented a major turning point in the field that, with subsequent elucidation of the distinct structures and functions of these enzymes, catalyzed an avalanche of further studies. In this Review, written from a personal and historical perspective, I highlight foundational biochemical studies that led to the discovery of an expanding universe of the components of the transcriptional and regulatory machineries, and a parallel complexity in gene-specific mechanisms that continue to be explored to the present day.

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Fig. 1: General initiation factors and PIC assembly pathways for Pol III-transcribed genes with internal promoter elements, and activation by a gene-specific activator.
Fig. 2: General initiation factors and PIC assembly pathway for a Pol II-transcribed gene with a strong TATA-containing core promoter, and regulation by gene-specific factors and interacting cofactors.

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Acknowledgements

I thank S. Malik for a critical reading and suggestions on the manuscript. I am indebted to my mentors W. J. Rutter and D. D. Brown for their support and encouragement in the earliest phase of my scientific career, and to the numerous students and fellows who contributed so profoundly to the studies from my laboratory over the last five decades. I apologize to the many colleagues in the transcription field whose work could not be cited because of space limitations and the focus of the manuscript. Work in my laboratory over the past decades has been generously supported by the National Institutes of Health, the American Cancer Society, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, the Starr Cancer Consortuim, many other private foundations and The Rockefeller University.

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Roeder, R.G. 50+ years of eukaryotic transcription: an expanding universe of factors and mechanisms. Nat Struct Mol Biol 26, 783–791 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41594-019-0287-x

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