Release of RNA polymerase II (Pol II) from promoter-proximal pausing has emerged as a critical step regulating gene expression in multicellular organisms. The transition of Pol II into productive elongation requires the kinase activity of positive transcription elongation factor b (P-TEFb), which is itself under a stringent control by the inhibitory 7SK small nuclear ribonucleoprotein (7SK snRNP) complex. Here, we provide an overview on stimulating Pol II pause release by P-TEFb and on sequestering P-TEFb into 7SK snRNP. Furthermore, we highlight mechanisms that govern anchoring of 7SK snRNP to chromatin as well as means that release P-TEFb from the inhibitory complex, and propose a unifying model of P-TEFb activation on chromatin. Collectively, these studies shine a spotlight on the central role of RNA binding proteins (RBPs) in directing the inhibition and activation of P-TEFb, providing a compelling paradigm for controlling Pol II transcription with a non-coding RNA.
© The Author(s) 2016. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Nucleic Acids Research.