Spatiotemporal coordination of transcription preinitiation complex assembly in live cells

Mol Cell. 2021 Sep 2;81(17):3560-3575.e6. doi: 10.1016/j.molcel.2021.07.022. Epub 2021 Aug 9.


Transcription initiation by RNA polymerase II (RNA Pol II) requires preinitiation complex (PIC) assembly at gene promoters. In the dynamic nucleus, where thousands of promoters are broadly distributed in chromatin, it is unclear how multiple individual components converge on any target to establish the PIC. Here we use live-cell, single-molecule tracking in S. cerevisiae to visualize constrained exploration of the nucleoplasm by PIC components and Mediator's key role in guiding this process. On chromatin, TFIID/TATA-binding protein (TBP), Mediator, and RNA Pol II instruct assembly of a short-lived PIC, which occurs infrequently but efficiently within a few seconds on average. Moreover, PIC exclusion by nucleosome encroachment underscores regulated promoter accessibility by chromatin remodeling. Thus, coordinated nuclear exploration and recruitment to accessible targets underlies dynamic PIC establishment in yeast. Our study provides a global spatiotemporal model for transcription initiation in live cells.

Keywords: Mediator; Transcription initiation; live-cell imaging; single-molecule tracking; subdiffusion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Chromatin / metabolism
  • Chromatin Assembly and Disassembly / physiology
  • Mediator Complex / genetics
  • Mediator Complex / metabolism*
  • Nucleosomes / metabolism
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic / genetics
  • Protein Binding / genetics
  • RNA Polymerase II / metabolism*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / metabolism
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins / metabolism
  • Spatio-Temporal Analysis
  • TATA-Box Binding Protein / genetics
  • Transcription Factor TFIID / genetics
  • Transcription Initiation, Genetic / physiology*
  • Transcription, Genetic / genetics


  • Chromatin
  • Mediator Complex
  • Nucleosomes
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins
  • TATA-Box Binding Protein
  • Transcription Factor TFIID
  • RNA Polymerase II