RNA polymerase specificity of mRNA production and enhancer action

M. A. Lopata, D. W. Cleveland, B. Sollner-Webb

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24 Scopus citations


To examine the RNA polymerase (EC specificity of RNA maturation/utilization and transcriptional enhancement, we constructed a chimeric plasmid (pPolI-CAT) in which a promoter for mouse rRNA gene transcription was placed adjacent the coding sequences for chloamphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT; EC A number of other constructs, including plasmids also containing a murine sarcoma virus enhancer or lacking any natural eukaryotic promoter sequences, were also prepared. In apparent agreement with earlier conclusions that an RNA polymerase I transcript can act as a messenger RNA, transient transfection of mouse L cells with pPolI-CAT yielded both high levels of transcription from the RNA polymerase I promoter and enzymatically active CAT protein. However, further examination revealed that CAT protein is not translated from RNA that begins at the normal rRNA transcription initiation site. Polysomal RNA is devoid of such RNA and instead consists of CAT-encoding transcripts that begin elsewhere in the mouse ribosomal DNA (rDNA) region. Since transcription of these aberrant RNAs is stimulated by the addition of a murine sarcoma virus enhancer segment, they are probably transcribed by RNA polymerase II. Transcripts that map to the authentic rRNA start site are not similarly enhanced. Moreover, unlike the RNAs deriving from the rRNA initiation site, these aberrant RNAs are more stable and the level of translatable CAT transcripts is suppressed by inclusion of larger segments of the rDNA promoter regions. Fortuitously initiated mRNAs are also formed in the absence of any natural eukaryotic promoter sequence. From these data we conclude (i) that there is no evidence that normal RNA polymerase I transcription yields functional mRNA and (ii) that transcriptional enhancement appears to be RNA polymerase specific.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6677-6681
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number18
StatePublished - 1986
Externally publishedYes

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