Transcription Essentials

Science  01 Nov 2002:
Vol. 298, Issue 5595, pp. 919p
DOI: 10.1126/science.298.5595.919p

Early transcription studies have suggested that the TATA-binding factor TBP is a general transcription factor that is required for transcription from RNA polymerase I (pol I), pol II, and pol III promoters. However, more recent studies showed that TBP and TBP-related factors display distinct roles in early embryonic gene transcription. Martianov et al. (p. 1036) now inactivate mouse TBP by homologous recombination and show that after the disappearance of maternal TBP, blastocysts undergo growth arrest and apoptosis. Mouse embryos that lack TBP die at the blastocyst stage, shortly after depletion of the maternal supply of TBP. RNA polymerase II transcription continues in the absence of TBP; however, RNA polymerase I transcription is severely impaired upon loss of TBP. These results reveal a TBP-independent RNA polymerase II transcriptional mechanism and suggest that although TBP may be essential for cell division and transcription initiation, it is not required for maintaining transcription in vivo.

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