Alternative outcomes in assembly of promoter complexes: the roles of TBP and a flexible linker in placing TFIIIB on tRNA genes

Genes Dev. 1996 Mar 15;10(6):725-39. doi: 10.1101/gad.10.6.725.


Saccharomyces cerevisiae transcription factor (TF) IIIB, a TATA-binding protein (TBP)-containing multisubunit factor, recruits RNA polymerase (Pol) III for multiple rounds of transcription. TFIIIC is an assembly factor for TFIIIB on TATA-less tRNA gene promoters. To investigate the role of TBP-DNA interactions in tRNA gene transcription, we generated sequence substitutions in the SUP4 tRNATyr gene TFIIIB binding site. Purified transcription proteins were used to analyze the selection of transcription initiation sites and the physical structures of the protein complexes formed on these mutant genes. We show that the association of TFIIIB with tRNA genes proceeds through an initial step of binding-site selection that is codirected by its TBP subunit and by TFIIIC. TFIIIB is assembled in a predominantly metric manner with regard to box A, the start site-proximal binding site of TFIIIC, but TFIIIC opens a window within which wild-type TBP can select the TFIIIB-binding site. Despite its clear preference for AT-rich sequences, TBP can mediate TFIIIB assembly at diverse DNA sequences, including stretches containing only G and C. However, a mutant TBP, m3, which recognizes TATAAA and TGTAAA and is active for Pol III transcription, utilizes other sequences only poorly. We also show that alternative alignments between DNA-bound TFIIIB and TFIIIC are possible, implying a remarkably flexible linkage, and suggest that Tfc4, the TFIIIB-assembling subunit of TFIIIC, could be responsible for such elasticity. The relevance of these findings to alternative initiation of Pol II- and other Pol III-transcribed genes is discussed.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • Binding Sites
  • DNA Polymerase II / metabolism
  • DNA Polymerase III / metabolism
  • DNA Probes
  • DNA, Fungal / genetics
  • DNA, Fungal / metabolism*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • Deoxyribonuclease I / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Fungal
  • Models, Genetic
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutagenesis, Site-Directed
  • Mutation
  • RNA, Transfer, Tyr / genetics*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / genetics*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / metabolism
  • TATA Box / genetics
  • TATA-Box Binding Protein
  • Transcription Factor TFIIIB
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Transcription Factors, TFIII*
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • DNA Probes
  • DNA, Fungal
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • RNA, Transfer, Tyr
  • TATA-Box Binding Protein
  • Transcription Factor TFIIIB
  • Transcription Factors
  • Transcription Factors, TFIII
  • transcription factor TFIIIC
  • DNA Polymerase II
  • DNA Polymerase III
  • Deoxyribonuclease I