Our current and proposed research is focused on structure determination of the RNA polymerase II (pol II) transcription pre-initiation complex (PIC). A major breakthrough in our work has led to the assembly and structure determination of a 31-protein PIC, capable of the initiation of transcription at TATA-box promoters. We have determined the structure of the 31-protein PIC by cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) and cross-linking combined with mass spectrometry (XL-MS).
Specific aims for the next project period are: 1) Extension of resolution of the current structure of the 31-protein PIC. Cryo-EM data will be collected with a direct electron detector and processed with new methods that assign distributions of weights rather than unique orientations, and that avoid overfitting. Large heavy atom clusters will be used to enhance the speed and precision of alignment. 2) Structure determination of an actively initiating PIC. Addition of ATP opens a transcription bubble within the PIC and enables the initiation of transcription. 3) Structure determination of PIC containing the TAF complex. PIC formed in the presence of the 14-protein TAF complex is capable of initiation at TATA-less promoters. 4) Structure determination of pol II-Mediator complex (holoenzyme). The 21-protein Mediator communicates regulatory information to pol II. Analysis by cryo-EM and image processing with new methods will result in significant improvement over previous structures. Analysis by XL-MS will reveal interactions responsible for the regulation of transcription. 5) Structure determination of a PIC-Mediator complex. By modification of the assembly procedure for the 31-protein PIC, Mediator could be incorporated in a stoichiometric complex. Preliminary cryo-EM and single particle analysis has confirmed the uniformity of the material. 6) Assembly and structure determination of a complete 66-protein PIC. Having formed complexes of the 31-protein PIC, TAF complex, and Mediator in pairwise combinations, it should be straightforward to assemble all three components in a 66-protein PIC. Analysis by cryo-EM and by XL-MS will be undertaken.
The proposed research is relevant to both fundamental studies and to human health. The methods and results will contribute to the eventual understanding of all aspects of gene transcription. The elucidation of the transcription mechanism and its regulation will enable insights into cancer and other diseases, and will lead to novel therapeutics.
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