Subunits shared by eukaryotic nuclear RNA polymerases

Nancy A. Woychik, Sha Mei Liao, Peter A. Kolodziej, Richard A. Young

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

139 Scopus citations


RNA polymerases I, II, and III share three subunits that are immunologically and biochemically indistinguishable. The Saccharomyces cerevisiae genes that encode these subunits (RPB5, RPB6, and RPB8] were isolated and sequenced, and their transcriptional start sites were deduced. RPB5 encodes a 25-kD protein, RPB6, an 18-kD protein, and RPB8, a 16-kD protein. These genes are single copy, reside on different chromosomes, and are essential for viability. The fact that the genes are single copy, corroborates previous evidence suggesting that each of the common subunits is identical in RNA polymerases I, II, and III. Furthermore, immunoprecipitation of RPB6 coprecipitates proteins whose sizes are consistent with RNA polymerase I, II, and III subunits. Sequence similarity between the yeast RPB5 protein and a previously characterized human RNA polymerase subunit demonstrates that the common subunits of the nuclear RNA polymerases are well conserved among eukaryotes. The presence of these conserved and essential subunits in all three nuclear RNA polymerases and the absence of recognizable sequence motifs for DNA and nucleoside triphosphate-binding indicate that the common subunits do not have a catalytic role but are important for a function shared by the RNA polymerases such as transcriptional efficiency, nuclear localization, enzyme stability, or coordinate regulation of rRNA, mRNA, and tRNA synthesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)313-323
Number of pages11
JournalGenes and Development
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1990
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Genetics
  • Developmental Biology


  • RNA polymerase
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae
  • Subunit
  • Transcription


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