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Replication-transcription switch in human mitochondria

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Science  30 Jan 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6221, pp. 548-551
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa0986

Switching transcription and replication

Because mitochondrial DNA is circular, the transcription and replication machinery might be expected to collide. A single mitochondrial RNA polymerase (mtRNAP) transcribes the mitochondrial DNA and also generates primers for replication. Agaronyan et al. now show that transcription and replication are kept separate in human mitochondria, with the mitochondrial transcription elongation factor TEFM serving as a key player in the switch. In the absence of TEFM, mtRNAP terminates downstream from the promoter, forming primers to promote replication. In the presence of TEFM, the primers are not formed, and the overall processivity of mtRNAP elongation complexes is enhanced, promoting genome transcription. These mutually exclusive mechanisms allow the processes to proceed independently as needed by the cell.

Science, this issue p. 548

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