RNA polymerase I (Pol I) is a highly efficient enzyme specialized in synthesizing most ribosomal RNAs. After nucleosome deposition at each round of rDNA replication, the Pol I transcription machinery has to deal with nucleosomal barriers. It has been suggested that Pol I-associated factors facilitate chromatin transcription, but it is unknown whether Pol I has an intrinsic capacity to transcribe through nucleosomes. Here, we used in vitro transcription assays to study purified WT and mutant Pol I variants from the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae and compare their abilities to pass a nucleosomal barrier with those of yeast Pol II and Pol III. Under identical conditions, purified Pol I and Pol III, but not Pol II, could transcribe nucleosomal templates. Pol I mutants lacking either the heterodimeric subunit Rpa34.5/Rpa49 or the C-terminal part of the specific subunit Rpa12.2 showed a lower processivity on naked DNA templates, which was even more reduced in the presence of a nucleosome. Our findings suggest that the lobe-binding subunits Rpa34.5/Rpa49 and Rpa12.2 facilitate passage through nucleosomes, suggesting possible cooperation among these subunits. We discuss the contribution of Pol I-specific subunit domains to efficient Pol I passage through nucleosomes in the context of transcription rate and processivity.
Keywords: RNA polymerase I; RNA polymerase II; RNA polymerase III; Rpa34.5; Rpa49; chromatin; nucleolus; nucleosome; ribosomal ribonucleic acid (rRNA) (ribosomal RNA); ribosome; transcription; transcription elongation factor.
© 2020 Merkl et al.