Half helical turn spacing changes convert a frog into a mouse rDNA promoter: A distant upstream domain determines the helix face of the initiation site

Louise K. Pape, Jolene J. Windle, Barbara Sollner-Webb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Transcription of frog rDNA by mouse cell factors is the only documented exception to the observed species selectivity of rRNA gene expression. This heterologous transcription is authentic in that it uses the normal frog upstream and core promoter domains, as well as the normal mouse polymerase I transcription factors, but it initiates at residue -4. We now show that by introducing an insertion or deletion of approximately one-half helical turn anywhere within the 90-bp region between the upstream and core promoter domains, the initiation site moves to residue +1. Promoters bearing spacing changes of approximately one or two full helix turns do not initiate at residue + 1, whereas a promoter with a one and one-half-turn helical turn spacing change again supports initiation at residue +1. Thus, the position of the upstream domain of the frog promoter shows a stereo-specific requirement relative to the core promoter domain and dictates the face of the DNA helix on which transcription initiates, 140 bp away. In contrast, relative to the core promoter domain, initiation can occur on either side of the DNA helix. Furthermore, the striking observation that several frog half helical turn spacing change mutants are stronger templates with the mouse factors than the homologous mouse rDNA suggests that the polymerase I transcriptional machinery of even distantly related species is far more similar than generally envisioned.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)52-62
Number of pages11
JournalGenes and Development
Volume4
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 1990

Keywords

  • DNA helix
  • Initiation site
  • RDNA transcription
  • RNA polymerase I
  • Species selectivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Developmental Biology

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