The transcription cycle in eukaryotes: from productive initiation to RNA polymerase II recycling

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2012 May;1819(5):391-400. doi: 10.1016/j.bbagrm.2012.01.010. Epub 2012 Jan 28.


The cycle of eukaryotic transcription, from initiation to elongation and termination is regulated at multiple steps. Coordinated action of regulatory factors keeps in check the transcriptional competence of RNA polymerase II (RNAPII) at different stages. Productive transcription requires the escape of the paused RNAPII from the promoter and transition to rapid elongation of the transcript. Numerous studies have identified diverse mechanisms of initiating transcription by overriding inhibitory signals at the gene promoter. The general theme that has emerged is that the balance between positive and negative regulatory factors determines the overall rate of transcription. Recently transcription termination has emerged as an important area of transcriptional regulation that is coupled with the efficient recycling of RNAPII. The factors associated with transcription termination can also mediate gene looping and thereby determine the efficiency of re-initiation. This review highlights these regulatory steps, the key modulators involved in transcription dynamics, and the emerging tools to analyze them.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Eukaryota / genetics*
  • Eukaryotic Cells / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Humans
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • RNA Polymerase II
  • Transcription Factors* / genetics
  • Transcription Factors* / metabolism
  • Transcription, Genetic*


  • Transcription Factors
  • RNA Polymerase II