The BN51 protein is a polymerase (Pol)-specific subunit of RNA Pol III which reveals a link between Pol III transcription and pre-rRNA processing

Mol Cell Biol. 1995 Jan;15(1):94-101. doi: 10.1128/MCB.15.1.94.


The three eukaryotic nuclear RNA polymerase (Pol) contain common and unique subunits. Cloning of the unique Pol III subunit genes in yeast cells has revealed a potential homolog in the mammalian system, the BN51 gene. The human BN51 gene was originally isolated as a suppressor of a temperature-sensitive cell cycle mutant of BHK cells (tsBN51). Although tsBN51 cells have a marked decrease in RNA Pol III activity at the nonpermissive temperature, direct biochemical evidence for the BN51 protein being a human Pol III subunit was lacking. Using antibodies directed against the BN51 protein, we show the following: (i) the BN51 protein copurifies with Pol III activity, (ii) Pol III activity can be specifically immunoprecipitated from HeLa nuclear extracts, and (iii) the immunopurified BN51 complex is active in restoring both nonspecific and promoter-specific Pol III activity. Our findings provide direct biochemical evidence for BN51 being a Pol III-specific subunit. Despite the fact that BN51 is not a subunit of Pol I, the production of mature Pol I transcripts is inhibited in tsBN51 cells at the nonpermissive temperature. tsBN51 cells appear defective in processing the 32S precursor rRNA into mature 5.8S and 28S rRNA at the nonpermissive temperature. We surmise that ribosome assembly has halted because of the loss of Pol III transcripts. Thus, there is regulation of the synthesis of mature Pol I transcripts by a posttranscriptional mechanism based on the availability of Pol III transcripts.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Macromolecular Substances
  • Nuclear Proteins / chemistry*
  • RNA Polymerase III / chemistry*
  • RNA Processing, Post-Transcriptional
  • RNA, Ribosomal / genetics*
  • RNA, Ribosomal / metabolism
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • Macromolecular Substances
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • RNA, Ribosomal
  • RNA Polymerase III