The architecture of transcription elongation

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Science  01 Sep 2017:
Vol. 357, Issue 6354, pp. 871-872
DOI: 10.1126/science.aao4754

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The molecular machines that carry out transcription in all domains of life—bacteria, archaea, and eukaryotes—are multisubunit RNA polymerases (1). Over the past 15 years, structural analyses at ever higher resolution, in particular hybrid approaches that combine x-ray crystallography and single-particle cryo–electron microscopy, have provided detailed insights into how these enzymes work (2). On page 921 of this issue, Ehara et al. (3) apply such a multidisciplinary structural approach and in vitro transcription assays to reveal functional insights into a complete elongation complex from the yeast Komagataella pastoris, encompassing RNA polymerase II (RNAPII) and the transcription elongation factors Elf1, Spt4/5, and TFIIS. The results uncover the detailed molecular mechanisms by which these factors can not only enhance transcription elongation, but also pausing.