Molecular Evolution of Multisubunit RNA Polymerases: Sequence Analysis

J Mol Biol. 2010 Jan 29;395(4):671-85. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2009.10.062. Epub 2009 Nov 3.


Transcription in all cellular organisms is performed by multisubunit, DNA-dependent RNA polymerases that synthesize RNA from DNA templates. Previous sequence and structural studies have elucidated the importance of shared regions common to all multisubunit RNA polymerases. In addition, RNA polymerases contain multiple lineage-specific domain insertions involved in protein-protein and protein-nucleic acid interactions. We have created comprehensive multiple sequence alignments using all available sequence data for the multisubunit RNA polymerase large subunits, including the bacterial beta and beta' subunits and their homologs from archaebacterial RNA polymerases, the eukaryotic RNA polymerases I, II, and III, the nuclear-cytoplasmic large double-stranded DNA virus RNA polymerases, and plant plastid RNA polymerases. To overcome technical difficulties inherent to the large-subunit sequences, including large sequence length, small and large lineage-specific insertions, split subunits, and fused proteins, we created an automated and customizable sequence retrieval and processing system. In addition, we used our alignments to create a more expansive set of shared sequence regions and bacterial lineage-specific domain insertions. We also analyzed the intergenic gap between the bacterial beta and beta' genes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / enzymology
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / chemistry
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • DNA, Intergenic
  • DNA-Directed RNA Polymerases / chemistry*
  • DNA-Directed RNA Polymerases / genetics*
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Models, Molecular
  • Phylogeny
  • Protein Subunits
  • Sequence Alignment


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • DNA, Intergenic
  • Protein Subunits
  • DNA-Directed RNA Polymerases