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The isolation and characterization of temperature-sensitive mutations in RNA polymerase I from Saccharomyces cerevisiae are described. A plasmid carrying RPA190, the gene encoding the largest subunit of the enzyme, was subjected to in vitro mutagenesis with hydroxylamine. Using a plasmid shuffle screening system, five different plasmids were isolated which conferred a temperature-sensitive phenotype in haploid yeast strains carrying the disrupted chromosomal RPA190 gene. These temperature-sensitive alleles were transferred to the chromosomal RPA190 locus for mapping and physiology experiments. Accumulation of RNA was found to be defective in all mutant strains at the nonpermissive temperature. In addition, analysis of pulse-labeled RNA from two mutant strains at 37 degrees C showed that the transcription of rRNA genes was decreased, while that of 5S RNA was relatively unaffected. RNA polymerase I was partially purified from several of the mutant strains grown at the nonpermissive temperature and was shown to be deficient when assayed in vitro. Fine-structure mapping and sequencing of the mutant alleles demonstrated that all five mutations were unique. The rpa190-1 and rpa190-5 mutations are tightly clustered in region I (S.S. Broyles and B. Moss, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 83:3141-3145, 1986), the putative zinc-binding region that is common to all eucaryotic RNA polymerase large subunits. The rpa190-3 mutation is located between regions III and IV, and a strain carrying it behaves as a mutant that is defective in the synthesis of the enzyme. This mutation lies within a previously unidentified segment of highly conserved amino acid sequence homology that is shared among the largest subunits of eucaryotic nuclear RNA polymerases. Another temperature-sensitive mutation, rpa190-2, creates a UGA nonsense codon.