Marking the start site of RNA polymerase III transcription: The role of constraint, compaction and continuity of the transcribed DNA strand

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The effects of breaks in the individual strands of an RNA polymerase III promoter on initiation of transcription have been examined. Single breaks have been introduced at 2 bp intervals in a 24 bp segment that spans the transcriptional start site of the U6 snRNA gene promoter. Their effects on transcription are asymmetrically distributed: transcribed (template) strand breaks downstream of bp -14 (relative to the normal start as +1) systematically shift the start site, evidently by disrupting the normal mechanism that measures distance from DNA-bound TBP. Breaks placed close to the normal start site very strongly inhibit transcription. Breaks in the non-transcribed strand generate only minor effects on transcription. A structure-based model interprets these observations and explains how the transcribed strand is used to locate the transcriptional start site.

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EMBO Journal

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