Transcription is a fundamental process that mediates the interplay between genetic information and phenotype. Emerging evidence indicates that RNA polymerase II (Pol II) can catalyze transcription using both DNA and RNA templates. It is well established that Pol II initiates de novo transcription on DNA templates. However, it is unclear whether Pol II performs de novo transcription or relies on primers for initiation (primed transcription) on RNA templates. Using potato spindle tuber viroid (PSTVd) as a model, we presented evidence showing that circular PSTVd templates are critical for the synthesis of longer-than-unit-length (-)-strand products, which supports the de novo transcription based on the asymmetric rolling circle model of PSTVd replication. We further showed that the crucial factor for primed transcription, transcription factor IIS (TFIIS), is dispensable for PSTVd replication in cells. Together, our data support the de novo transcription on PSTVd RNA templates catalyzed by Pol II. This result has significant implications in understanding the mechanism and machinery underlying Pol II-catalyzed transcription using other RNA templates.
Keywords: RNA Polymerase II; RNA-templated transcription; de novo transcription; potato spindle tuber viroid; primed transcription.