More pieces to the puzzle: recent structural insights into class II transcription initiation

Eaazhisai Kandiah, Simon Trowitzsch, Kapil Gupta, Matthias Haffke, Imre Berger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Class II transcription initiation is a highly regulated process and requires the assembly of a pre-initiation complex (PIC) containing DNA template, RNA polymerase II (RNAPII), general transcription factors (GTFs) TFIIA, TFIIB, TFIID, TFIIE, TFIIF, TFIIH and Mediator. RNAPII, TFIID, TFIIH and Mediator are large multiprotein complexes, each containing 10 and more subunits. Altogether, the PIC is made up of about 60 polypeptides with a combined molecular weight of close to 4MDa. Recent structural studies of key PIC components have significantly advanced our understanding of transcription initiation. TFIID was shown to bind promoter DNA in a reorganized state. The architecture of a core-TFIID complex was elucidated. Crystal structures of the TATA-binding protein (TBP) bound to TBP-associated factor 1 (TAF1), RNAPII-TFIIB complexes and the Mediator head module were solved. The overall architectures of large PIC assemblies from human and yeast have been determined by electron microscopy (EM). Here we review these latest structural insights into the architecture and assembly of the PIC, which reveal exciting new mechanistic details of transcription initiation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-7
Number of pages7
JournalCurrent Opinion in Structural Biology
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2014


  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Mediator Complex
  • Models, Molecular
  • Protein Conformation
  • RNA Polymerase II
  • Transcription Factors, General
  • Transcriptional Activation


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