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1.  Origins and Activity of the Mediator Complex 
The Mediator is a large, multisubunit RNA polymerase II transcriptional regulator that was first identified in Saccharomyces cerevisiae as a factor required for responsiveness of Pol II and the general initiation factors to DNA binding transactivators. Since its discovery in yeast, Mediator has been shown to be an integral and highly evolutionarily conserved component of the Pol II transcriptional machinery with critical roles in multiple stages of transcription, from regulation of assembly of the Pol II initiation complex to regulation of Pol II elongation. Here we provide a brief overview of the evolutionary origins of Mediator, its subunit composition, and its remarkably diverse collection of activities in Pol II transcription.
PMCID: PMC3207015  PMID: 21821140
2.  Immunoaffinity Purification of Protein Complexes from Mammalian Cells 
In this chapter, we describe a purification scheme designed to isolate multisubunit protein complexes gently and quickly from crude extracts of mammalian cells using immunoaffinity purification of epitope tagged proteins and the multisubunit complexes with which they associate. As an example we describe isolation of the mammalian Mediator complex from HeLa S3 cells.
PMCID: PMC3693849  PMID: 23436370
Multisubunit protein complex; Immunoaffinity purification; Epitope tag; Stable cell line
3.  The Mediator Complex and Transcription Elongation 
Biochimica et biophysica acta  2012;1829(1):69-75.
Mediator is an evolutionarily conserved multisubunit RNA polymerase II (Pol II) coregulatory complex. Although Mediator was initially found to play a critical role in regulation of the initiation of Pol II transcription, recent studies have brought to light an expanded role for Mediator at post-initiation stages of transcription.
Scope of review
We provide a brief description of the structure of Mediator and its function in the regulation of Pol II transcription initiation, and we summarize recent findings implicating Mediator in the regulation of various stages of Pol II transcription elongation.
Major conclusions
Emerging evidence is revealing new roles for Mediator in nearly all stages of Pol II transcription, including initiation, promoter escape, elongation, pre-mRNA processing, and termination.
General significance
Mediator plays a central role in the regulation of gene expression by impacting nearly all stages of mRNA synthesis.
PMCID: PMC3693936  PMID: 22983086
4.  Crosstalk between NSL Histone Acetyltransferase and MLL/SET Complexes: NSL Complex Functions in Promoting Histone H3K4 Di-Methylation Activity by MLL/SET Complexes 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(11):e1003940.
hMOF (MYST1), a histone acetyltransferase (HAT), forms at least two distinct multiprotein complexes in human cells. The male specific lethal (MSL) HAT complex plays a key role in dosage compensation in Drosophila and is responsible for histone H4K16ac in vivo. We and others previously described a second hMOF-containing HAT complex, the non-specific lethal (NSL) HAT complex. The NSL complex has a broader substrate specificity, can acetylate H4 on K16, K5, and K8. The WD (tryptophan-aspartate) repeat domain 5 (WDR5) and host cell factor 1 (HCF1) are shared among members of the MLL/SET (mixed-lineage leukemia/set-domain containing) family of histone H3K4 methyltransferase complexes. The presence of these shared subunits raises the possibility that there are functional links between these complexes and the histone modifications they catalyze; however, the degree to which NSL and MLL/SET influence one another's activities remains unclear. Here, we present evidence from biochemical assays and knockdown/overexpression approaches arguing that the NSL HAT promotes histone H3K4me2 by MLL/SET complexes by an acetylation-dependent mechanism. In genomic experiments, we identified a set of genes including ANKRD2, that are affected by knockdown of both NSL and MLL/SET subunits, suggested they are co-regulated by NSL and MLL/SET complexes. In ChIP assays, we observe that depletion of the NSL subunits hMOF or NSL1 resulted in a significant reduction of both H4K16ac and H3K4me2 in the vicinity of the ANKRD2 transcriptional start site proximal region. However, depletion of RbBP5 (a core component of MLL/SET complexes) only reduced H3K4me2 marks, but not H4K16ac in the same region of ANKRD2, consistent with the idea that NSL acts upstream of MLL/SET to regulate H3K4me2 at certain promoters, suggesting coordination between NSL and MLL/SET complexes is involved in transcriptional regulation of certain genes. Taken together, our results suggest a crosstalk between the NSL and MLL/SET complexes in cells.
Author Summary
Covalent modification of N-terminal tails of histone proteins is accomplished by a variety of chromatin modifying complexes. These complexes catalyze at least eight distinct types of histone modifications including acetylation, methylation, phosphorylation, and ubiquitination. Histone modifications may act alone or in a coordinated manner to activate or repress chromosomal processes. For example, a particular histone modification may recruit or activate chromatin modifying complexes that generate a different histone modification. Coordination between hMOF-mediated histone H4K16 acetylation and other histone modifications has been reported by several research groups. The presence of subunits shared between the hMOF-containing NSL and MLL/SET family complexes suggests there may be functional links between two complexes. Consistent with this idea, we identified a set of genes that are co-regulated by the NSL and MLL/SET complexes. Both in vitro and in vivo experimental approaches provide evidence that the NSL HAT functions in promoting histone H3K4 di-methylation activity by MLL/SET complexes. Interestingly crosstalk between hMOF/NSL HAT and MLL/SET HMT activity seems to be unidirectional since there we detected no effect of MLL/SET activity on NSL HAT, either in vitro or in cells.
PMCID: PMC3828133  PMID: 24244196
5.  A conserved Mediator–CDK8 kinase module association regulates Mediator–RNA polymerase II interaction 
The CDK8 kinase module (CKM) is a conserved, dissociable Mediator subcomplex whose component subunits were genetically linked to the RNA polymerase II (RNAPII) carboxy-terminal domain (CTD) and individually recognized as transcriptional repressors before Mediator was identified as a preeminent complex in eukaryotic transcription regulation. We used macromolecular electron microscopy and biochemistry to investigate the subunit organization, structure, and Mediator interaction of the Saccharomyces cerevisiae CKM. We found that interaction of the CKM with Mediator’s Middle module interferes with CTD-dependent RNAPII binding to a previously unknown Middle module CTD-binding site targeted early on in a multi-step holoenzyme formation process. Taken together, our results reveal the basis for CKM repression, clarify the origin of the connection between CKM subunits and the CTD, and suggest that a combination of competitive interactions and conformational changes that facilitate holoenzyme formation underlie the Mediator mechanism.
PMCID: PMC3648612  PMID: 23563140
6.  Purification of RNA Polymerase II General Transcription Factors from Rat Liver 
Methods in enzymology  1996;273:194-207.
Eukaryotic messenger RNA synthesis is a complex biochemical process requiring the concerted action of multiple “general” transcription factors (TFs) that control the activity of RNA polymerase II at both the initiation1 and elongation2,3 stages of transcription. Because the general transcription factors are present at low levels in mammalian cells, their purification is a formidable undertaking. For this reason we explored the feasibility of using rat liver as a source for purification of the general factors. Rat liver has proven to be an ideal model system for biochemical studies of transcription initiation and elongation by RNA polymerase II (Figs. 1 and 2). In our hands the yield of general transcription factors per gram of rat liver is roughly equivalent to their yield per gram of cultured HeLa cells. Moreover, we have been able to develop convenient and reproducible methods for preparation of rat liver extracts from as much as 1 kg of liver per day. Because it is both technically difficult and expensive to obtain such quantities of cultured cells on a daily basis, rat liver provides a significant logistic advantage for purification of the general transcription factors.
PMCID: PMC3618461  PMID: 8791613
7.  The Human EKC/KEOPS Complex Is Recruited to Cullin2 Ubiquitin Ligases by the Human Tumour Antigen PRAME 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e42822.
The human tumour antigen PRAME (preferentially expressed antigen in melanoma) is frequently overexpressed during oncogenesis, and high PRAME levels are associated with poor clinical outcome in a variety of cancers. However, the molecular pathways in which PRAME is implicated are not well understood. We recently characterized PRAME as a BC-box subunit of a Cullin2-based E3 ubiquitin ligase. In this study, we mined the PRAME interactome to a deeper level and identified specific interactions with OSGEP and LAGE3, which are human orthologues of the ancient EKC/KEOPS complex. By characterizing biochemically the human EKC complex and its interactions with PRAME, we show that PRAME recruits a Cul2 ubiquitin ligase to EKC. Moreover, EKC subunits associate with PRAME target sites on chromatin. Our data reveal a novel link between the oncoprotein PRAME and the conserved EKC complex and support a role for both complexes in the same pathways.
PMCID: PMC3418287  PMID: 22912744
8.  Human Mediator Subunit Med26 Functions As A Docking Site For Transcription Elongation Factors 
Cell  2011;146(1):92-104.
Promoter proximal pausing by initiated RNA polymerase II (Pol II) and regulated release of paused polymerase into productive elongation has emerged as a major mechanism of transcription activation. Reactivation of paused Pol II correlates with recruitment of SuperElongationComplexes (SECs) containing ELL/EAF family members, P-TEFb, and other proteins, but the mechanism of their recruitment is currently a major unanswered question. Here, we present evidence for a role of human Mediator subunit Med26 in this process. We identify in the conserved N-terminal domain of Med26 overlapping docking sites for SEC and a second ELL/EAF-containing complex, as well as general initiation factor TFIID. In addition, we present evidence consistent with the model that Med26 can function as a molecular switch that interacts first with TFIID in the Pol II initiation complex and then exchanges TFIID for complexes containing ELL/EAF and P-TEFb to facilitate transition of Pol II into the elongation stage of transcription.
PMCID: PMC3145325  PMID: 21729782
9.  Transcription Initiated by RNA Polymerase II and Purified Transcription Factors from Liver 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  1990;265(13):7552-7558.
Synthesis of accurately initiated transcripts has been reconstituted with RNA polymerase II and a set of five transcription factors purified from rat liver. In addition to three previously identified factors α, βγ, and δ (Conaway, R. C, and Conaway, J. W. (1989) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A. 86, 7356–7360), transcription in the reconstituted liver system requires two novel factors designated τ and ε. These five transcription factors comprise two functional classes: (i) promoter recognition factors (τ and ε), which interact with template DNA to facilitate formation of a stable initial complex that is subsequently recognized and bound by RNA polymerase II, and (ii) RNA chain initiation factors (α, βγ, and δ), which do not participate in formation of the initial complex, but which are essential for transcription initiation.
PMCID: PMC3380428  PMID: 2332442
10.  The RNA polymerase II general elongation factors 
Trends in Biochemical Sciences  1996;21(9):351-355.
Synthesis of eukaryotic messenger RNA by RNA polymerase II is governed by the concerted action of a set of general transcription factors that control the activity of polymerase during both the initiation and elongation stages of transcription. To date, five general elongation factors [P-TEFb, SII, TFIIF, Elongin (SIII) and ELL] have been defined biochemically. Here, we discuss these transcription factors and their roles in controlling the activity of the RNA polymerase II elongation complex.
PMCID: PMC3374595  PMID: 8870500
11.  Mechanism and regulation of transcriptional elongation by RNA polymerase II 
Current Opinion in Cell Biology  1999;11(3):342-346.
Over the past few years, biochemical and genetic studies have shed considerable light on the structure and function of the RNA polymerase II (pol II) elongation complex and the transcription factors that control it. Novel elongation factors have been identified and their mechanisms of action characterized in increasing detail; new insights into the biological roles of elongation factors have been gained from genetic studies of the regulation of mRNA synthesis in yeast; and intriguing links between the pol II elongation machinery and the pathways of DNA repair and recombination have emerged.
PMCID: PMC3371606  PMID: 10395562
12.  Function and Regulation of the Mediator Complex 
Over the past few years, advances in biochemical and genetic studies of the structure and function of the Mediator complex have shed new light on its subunit architecture and its mechanism of action in transcription by RNA polymerase II (pol II). The development of improved methods for reconstitution of recombinant Mediator subassemblies is enabling more in-depth analyses of basic features of the mechanisms by which Mediator interacts with and controls the activity of pol II and the general initiation factors. The discovery and characterization of multiple, functionally distinct forms of Mediator characterized by the presence or absence of the Cdk8 kinase module have led to new insights into how Mediator functions in both Pol II transcription activation and repression. Finally, progress in studies of the mechanisms by which the transcriptional activation domains (ADs) of DNA binding transcription factors target Mediator have brought to light unexpected complexities in the way Mediator participates in signal transduction.
PMCID: PMC3086004  PMID: 21330129
13.  Purification and Assay of the Human INO80 and SRCAP Chromatin Remodeling Complexes 
Methods (San Diego, Calif.)  2006;40(4):312-317.
Chromatin modifying and remodeling enzymes play critical roles in many aspects of chromosome biology including transcription, replication, recombination, and repair. Our laboratory recently identified and characterized two multisubunit human chromatin remodeling enzymes designated the INO80 and SRCAP complexes. Mechanistic studies revealed that the human INO80 complex catalyzes nucleosome sliding and the SRCAP complex catalyzes ATP-dependent exchange of histone H2A/H2B dimers containing the histone variant H2A.Z into nucleosomes. Here we describe methods for purification and assay of the INO80 and SRCAP chromatin remodeling complexes.
PMCID: PMC3092633  PMID: 17101442
Nucleosome; chromatin; histone; histone exchange; chromatin remodeler
14.  AFF4, a component of the ELL/p-TEFb elongation complex and a shared subunit of MLL chimeras can link transcription elongation to leukemia 
Molecular cell  2010;37(3):429-437.
Chromosomal translocations involving the MLL gene are associated with infant acute lymphoblastic and mixed lineage leukemia. There are a large number of translocation partners of MLL that share very little sequence or seemingly functional similarities, however, their translocations into MLL result in the pathogenesis of leukemia. To define the molecular reason why these translocations result in the pathogenesis of leukemia, we purified several of the commonly occurring MLL chimeras. We have identified a novel super elongation complex (SEC) associated with all chimeras purified. SEC includes ELL, P-TEFb, AFF4 and several other factors. AFF4 is required for SEC stability and proper transcription by poised RNA polymerase II in metazoans. Knockdown of AFF4 within SEC in leukemic cells shows reduction in MLL chimera target gene expression suggesting that AFF4/SEC could be a key regulator in the pathogenesis of leukemia through many of the MLL partners.
PMCID: PMC2872029  PMID: 20159561
15.  Distinct Modes of Regulation of the Uch37 Deubiquitinating Enzyme in the Proteasome and in the Ino80 Chromatin Remodeling Complex 
Molecular cell  2008;31(6):909-917.
Deubiquitinating enzymes (DUBs) are proteases that can antagonize ubiquitin-mediated signalling by disassembling ubiquitin-protein conjugates. How DUBs are regulated in vivo and how their substrate specificities are achieved are largely unknown. The conserved DUB Uch37 is found on proteasomes in organisms ranging from fission yeast to humans. Deubiquitination by Uch37 is activated by proteasomal binding, which enables Uch37 to process polyubiquitin chains. Here we show that in the nucleus Uch37 is also associated with the human Ino80 chromatin-remodeling complex (hINO80). In hINO80, Uch37 is held in an inactive state; however, it can be activated by transient interaction of the Ino80 complex with the proteasome. Thus, DUB activities can be modulated both positively and negatively via dynamic interactions with partner proteins. In addition, our findings suggest that the proteasome and the hINO80 chromatin-remodeling complex may cooperate to regulate transcription or DNA repair, processes in which both complexes have been implicated.
PMCID: PMC2577292  PMID: 18922472
16.  Direct Inhibition of RNA Polymerase II Transcription by RECQL5* 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2009;284(35):23197-23203.
DNA helicases of the RECQ family are important for maintaining genome integrity, from bacteria to humans. Although progress has been made in understanding the biochemical role of some human RECQ helicases, that of RECQL5 remains elusive. We recently reported that RECQL5 interacts with RNA polymerase II (RNAPII), pointing to a role for the protein in transcription. Here, we show that RECQL5 inhibits both initiation and elongation in transcription assays reconstituted with highly purified general transcription factors and RNAPII. Such inhibition is not observed with the related, much more active RECQL1 helicase or with a version of RECQL5 that has normal helicase activity but is impaired in its ability to interact with RNAPII. Indeed, RECQL5 helicase activity is not required for inhibition. We discuss our findings in light of the fact that RECQ5−/− mice have elevated levels of DNA recombination and a higher incidence of cancer.
PMCID: PMC2749093  PMID: 19570979
17.  Both BC-Box Motifs of Adenovirus Protein E4orf6 Are Required To Efficiently Assemble an E3 Ligase Complex That Degrades p53 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2004;24(21):9619-9629.
Small DNA tumor viruses typically encode proteins that either inactivate or degrade p53. Human adenoviruses encode products, including E4orf6 and E1B55K, that do both. Each independently binds to p53 and inhibits its ability to activate gene expression; however, in combination they induce p53 degradation by the ubiquitin pathway. We have shown previously that p53 degradation relies on interactions of E4orf6 with the cellular proteins Cul5, Rbx1, and elongins B and C to form an E3 ligase similar to the SCF and VBC complexes. Here we show that, like other elongin BC-interacting proteins, including elongin A, von Hippel-Lindau protein, and Muf1, the interaction of E4orf6 is mediated by the BC-box motif; however, E4orf6 uniquely utilizes two BC-box motifs for degradation of p53 and another target, Mre11. In addition, our data suggest that the interaction of E1B55K with E4orf6 depends on the ability of E4orf6 to form the E3 ligase complex and that such complex formation may be required for all E4orf6-E1B55K functions.
PMCID: PMC522240  PMID: 15485928
18.  In Vivo Requirement of the RNA Polymerase II Elongation Factor Elongin A for Proper Gene Expression and Development 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2004;24(22):9911-9919.
A number of transcription factors that increase the catalytic rate of mRNA synthesis by RNA polymerase II (Pol II) have been purified from higher eukaryotes. Among these are the ELL family, DSIF, and the heterotrimeric elongin complex. Elongin A, the largest subunit of the elongin complex, is the transcriptionally active subunit, while the smaller elongin B and C subunits appear to act as regulatory subunits. While much is known about the in vitro properties of elongin A and other members of this class of elongation factors, the physiological role(s) of these proteins remain largely unclear. To elucidate in vivo functions of elongin A, we have characterized its Drosophila homologue (dEloA). dEloA associates with transcriptionally active puff sites within Drosophila polytene chromosomes and exhibits many of the expected biochemical and cytological properties consistent with a Pol II-associated elongation factor. RNA interference-mediated depletion of dEloA demonstrated that elongin A is an essential factor that is required for proper metamorphosis. Consistent with this observation, dEloA expression peaks during the larval stages of development, suggesting that this factor may be important for proper regulation of developmental events during these stages. The discovery of the role of elongin A in an in vivo model system defines the novel contribution played by RNA polymerase II elongation machinery in regulation of gene expression that is required for proper development.
PMCID: PMC525478  PMID: 15509793
19.  Identification of a transcription factor IIIA-interacting protein 
Nucleic Acids Research  2000;28(9):1986-1993.
Transcription factor IIIA (TFIIIA) activates 5S ribosomal RNA gene transcription in eukaryotes. The protein from vertebrates has nine contiguous Cys2His2 zinc fingers which function in nucleic acid binding, and a C-terminal region involved in transcription activation. In order to identify protein partners for TFIIIA, yeast two-hybrid screens were performed using the C-terminal region of Xenopus TFIIIA as an attractor and a rat cDNA library as a source of potential partners. A cDNA clone was identified which produced a protein in yeast that interacted with Xenopus TFIIIA but not with yeast TFIIIA. This rat clone was sequenced and the primary structure of the human homolog (termed TFIIIA-intP for TFIIIA-interacting protein) was determined from expressed sequence tags. In vitro interaction of recombinant human TFIIIA-intP with recombinant Xenopus TFIIIA was demonstrated by immunoprecipitation of the complex using anti-TFIIIA-intP antibody. Interaction of rat TFIIIA with rat TFIIIA-intP was indicated by co-chromatography of the two proteins on DEAE-5PW following fractionation of a rat liver extract on cation, anion and gel filtration resins. In a HeLa cell nuclear extract, recombinant TFIIIA-intP was able to stimulate TFIIIA-dependent transcription of the Xenopus 5S ribosomal RNA gene but not TFIIIA-independent transcription of the human adenovirus VA RNA gene.
PMCID: PMC103300  PMID: 10756201
20.  Synthetic peptides define critical contacts between elongin C, elongin B, and the von Hippel-Lindau protein 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  1999;104(11):1583-1591.
The von Hippel-Lindau tumor suppressor protein (pVHL) negatively regulates hypoxia-inducible mRNAs such as the mRNA encoding vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). This activity has been linked to its ability to form multimeric complexes that contain elongin C, elongin B, and Cul2. To understand this process in greater detail, we performed a series of in vitro binding assays using pVHL, elongin B, and elongin C variants as well as synthetic peptide competitors derived from pVHL or elongin C. A subdomain of elongin C (residues 17–50) was necessary and sufficient for detectable binding to elongin B. In contrast, elongin B residues required for binding to elongin C were not confined to a discrete colinear domain. We found that the pVHL (residues 157–171) is necessary and sufficient for binding to elongin C in vitro and is frequently mutated in families with VHL disease. These mutations preferentially involve residues that directly bind to elongin C and/or alter the conformation of pVHL such that binding to elongin C is at least partially diminished. These results are consistent with the view that diminished binding of pVHL to the elongins plays a causal role in VHL disease.
J. Clin. Invest. 104:1583–1591 (1999).
PMCID: PMC481054  PMID: 10587522
21.  Regulation of Hypoxia-Inducible mRNAs by the von Hippel-Lindau Tumor Suppressor Protein Requires Binding to Complexes Containing Elongins B/C and Cul2 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1998;18(2):732-741.
The von Hippel-Lindau tumor suppressor protein (pVHL) binds to elongins B and C and posttranscriptionally regulates the accumulation of hypoxia-inducible mRNAs under normoxic (21% O2) conditions. Here we report that pVHL binds, via elongin C, to the human homolog of the Caenorhabditis elegans Cul2 protein. Coimmunoprecipitation and chromatographic copurification data suggest that pVHL-Cul2 complexes exist in native cells. pVHL mutants that were unable to bind to complexes containing elongin C and Cul2 were likewise unable to inhibit the accumulation of hypoxia-inducible mRNAs. A model for the regulation of hypoxia-inducible mRNAs by pVHL is presented based on the apparent similarity of elongin C and Cul2 to Skp1 and Cdc53, respectively. These latter proteins form complexes that target specific proteins for ubiquitin-dependent proteolysis.
PMCID: PMC108784  PMID: 9447969

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