Cracking the control of RNA polymerase II elongation by 7SK snRNP and P-TEFb

Nucleic Acids Res. 2016 Sep 19;44(16):7527-39. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkw585. Epub 2016 Jul 1.


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.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromatin / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Positive Transcriptional Elongation Factor B / metabolism*
  • RNA Polymerase II / metabolism*
  • Ribonucleoproteins, Small Nuclear / metabolism*
  • Transcription Elongation, Genetic*


  • Chromatin
  • Ribonucleoproteins, Small Nuclear
  • Positive Transcriptional Elongation Factor B
  • RNA Polymerase II