Mediator of transcriptional regulation

Annu Rev Biochem. 2000;69:729-49. doi: 10.1146/annurev.biochem.69.1.729.


Three lines of evidence have converged on a multiprotein Mediator complex as a conserved interface between gene-specific regulatory proteins and the general transcription apparatus of eukaryotes. Mediator was discovered as an activity required for transcriptional activation in a reconstituted system from yeast. Upon resolution to homogeneity, the activity proved to reside in a 20-protein complex, which could exist in a free state or in a complex with RNA polymerase II, termed holoenzyme. A second line of evidence came from screens in yeast for mutations affecting transcription. Two-thirds of Mediator subunits are encoded by genes revealed by these screens. Five of the genetically defined subunits, termed Srbs, were characterized as interacting with the C-terminal domain of RNA polymerase II in vivo, and were shown to bind polymerase in vitro. A third line of evidence has come recently from studies in mammalian transcription systems. Mammalian counterparts of yeast Mediator were shown to interact with transcriptional activator proteins and to play an essential role in transcriptional regulation. Mediator evidently integrates and transduces positive and negative regulatory information from enhancers and operators to promoters. It functions directly through RNA polymerase II, modulating its activity in promoter-dependent transcription. Details of the Mediator mechanism remain obscure. Additional outstanding questions include the patterns of promoter-specificity of the various Mediator subunits, the possible cell-type-specificity of Mediator subunit composition, and the full structures of both free Mediator and RNA polymerase II holoenzyme.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Fungal Proteins / genetics
  • Fungal Proteins / metabolism
  • Genes, Fungal
  • Humans
  • Protein Kinases / genetics
  • Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • RNA Polymerase II / genetics
  • RNA Polymerase II / metabolism
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / genetics
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / metabolism
  • Schizosaccharomyces / genetics
  • Schizosaccharomyces / metabolism
  • Transcription, Genetic*


  • Fungal Proteins
  • Protein Kinases
  • carboxy-terminal domain kinase
  • RNA Polymerase II