Introducing RNA Polymerase

The long-sought crystal structure of RNA polymerase II, aka PolII, reveals a complex and tenacious machine. As the linchpin in gene expression, that machine "is arguably the most important protein in biology," says Roger Kornberg, professor of structural biology at Stanford University School of Medicine, who led the two-decade-long effort (P. Cramer et al., "Architecture of RNA polymerase II and implications for the transcription mechanism," Science, 288:640-9, April 28, 2000). Complexed with precisely bound other proteins, PolII orchestrates the differential accessing of genetic information that guides development. "The entire transcription machine is almost 60 proteins. All with very minor exceptions have been identified across species, from yeast to humans," he adds. The visualized enzyme is from yeast. PolII is a monster among molecules; however, its fragility and scarcity in cells impeded crystallization. It proved possible only in a deletion mutant that lacks two of the...

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