The Mediator Complex: At the Nexus of RNA Polymerase II Transcription

Trends Cell Biol. 2017 Oct;27(10):765-783. doi: 10.1016/j.tcb.2017.07.001. Epub 2017 Aug 1.


Mediator is an essential, large, multisubunit, transcriptional co-activator highly conserved across eukaryotes. Mediator interacts with gene-specific transcription factors at enhancers as well as with the RNA polymerase II (RNAPII) transcription machinery bound at promoters. It also interacts with several other factors involved in various aspects of transcription, chromatin regulation, and mRNA processing. Hence, Mediator is at the nexus of RNAPII transcription, regulating its many steps and connecting transcription with co-transcriptional events. To achieve this flexible role, Mediator, which is divided into several functional modules, reorganizes its conformation and composition while making transient contacts with other components. Here, we review the mechanisms of action of Mediator and propose a unifying model for its function.

Keywords: CDK8; CTD; Mediator; P-TEFb; RNA polymerase II; pre-initiation complex.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromatin / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation / genetics
  • Humans
  • Mediator Complex / genetics*
  • RNA Polymerase II / genetics*
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription, Genetic / genetics*


  • Chromatin
  • Mediator Complex
  • Transcription Factors
  • RNA Polymerase II