Structural basis of transcription initiation by RNA polymerase II

Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol. 2015 Mar;16(3):129-43. doi: 10.1038/nrm3952. Epub 2015 Feb 18.


Transcription of eukaryotic protein-coding genes commences with the assembly of a conserved initiation complex, which consists of RNA polymerase II (Pol II) and the general transcription factors, at promoter DNA. After two decades of research, the structural basis of transcription initiation is emerging. Crystal structures of many components of the initiation complex have been resolved, and structural information on Pol II complexes with general transcription factors has recently been obtained. Although mechanistic details await elucidation, available data outline how Pol II cooperates with the general transcription factors to bind to and open promoter DNA, and how Pol II directs RNA synthesis and escapes from the promoter.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA / chemistry
  • DNA / metabolism
  • Eukaryotic Cells / cytology
  • Eukaryotic Cells / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Models, Molecular
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Protein Binding
  • RNA Polymerase II / chemistry*
  • RNA Polymerase II / genetics
  • RNA Polymerase II / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis
  • RNA, Messenger / chemistry*
  • Transcription Factors, General / chemistry*
  • Transcription Factors, General / genetics
  • Transcription Factors, General / metabolism
  • Transcription Initiation, Genetic*


  • RNA, Messenger
  • Transcription Factors, General
  • DNA
  • RNA Polymerase II