Molecular genetics of the RNA polymerase II general transcriptional machinery

Michael Hampsey

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

457 Scopus citations


Transcription initiation by RNA polymerase II (RNA pol II) requires interaction between cis-acting promoter elements and trans-acting factors. The eukaryotic promoter consists of core elements, which include the TATA box and other DNA sequences that define transcription start sites, and regulatory elements, which either enhance or repress transcription in a gene-specific manner. The core promoter is the site for assembly of the transcription preinitiation complex, which includes RNA pol II and the general transcription fctors TBP, TFIIB, TFIIE, TFIIF, and TFIIH. Regulatory elements bind gene-specific factors, which affect the rate of transcription by interacting, either directly or indirectly, with components of the general transcriptional machinery. A third class of transcription factors, termed coactivators, is not required for basal transcription in vitro but often mediates activation by a broad spectrum of activators. Accordingly, coactivators are neither gene-specific nor general transcription factors, although gene-specific coactivators have been described in metazoan systems. Transcriptional repressors include both gene-specific and general factors. Similar to coactivators, general transcriptional repressors affect the expression of a broad spectrum of genes yet do not repress all genes. General repressors either act through the core transcriptional machinery or are histone related and presumably affect chromatin function. This review focuses on the global effectors of RNA polymerase II transcription in yeast, including the general transcription factors, the coactivators, and the general repressors. Emphasis is placed on the role that yeast genetics has played in identifying these factors and their associated functions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)465-503
Number of pages39
JournalMicrobiology and Molecular Biology Reviews
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1998

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Infectious Diseases


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