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1.  Ancient origin, functional conservation and fast evolution of DNA-dependent RNA polymerase III 
Nucleic Acids Research  2006;34(13):3615-3624.
RNA polymerase III contains seventeen subunits in yeasts (Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Schizosaccharomyces pombe) and in human cells. Twelve of them are akin to the core RNA polymerase I or II. The five other are RNA polymerase III-specific and form the functionally distinct groups Rpc31-Rpc34-Rpc82 and Rpc37-Rpc53. Currently sequenced eukaryotic genomes revealed significant homology to these seventeen subunits in Fungi, Animals, Plants and Amoebozoans. Except for subunit Rpc31, this also extended to the much more distantly related genomes of Alveolates and Excavates, indicating that the complex subunit organization of RNA polymerase III emerged at a very early stage of eukaryotic evolution. The Sch.pombe subunits were expressed in S.cerevisiae null mutants and tested for growth. Ten core subunits showed heterospecific complementation, but the two largest catalytic subunits (Rpc1 and Rpc2) and all five RNA polymerase III-specific subunits (Rpc82, Rpc53, Rpc37, Rpc34 and Rpc31) were non-functional. Three highly conserved RNA polymerase III-specific domains were found in the twelve-subunit core structure. They correspond to the Rpc17-Rpc25 dimer, involved in transcription initiation, to an N-terminal domain of the largest subunit Rpc1 important to anchor Rpc31, Rpc34 and Rpc82, and to a C-terminal domain of Rpc1 that presumably holds Rpc37, Rpc53 and their Rpc11 partner.
PMCID: PMC1540719  PMID: 16877568
2.  Distinct regions of RPB11 are required for heterodimerization with RPB3 in human and yeast RNA polymerase II 
Nucleic Acids Research  2005;33(11):3582-3590.
In Saccharomyces cerevisiae, RNA polymerase II assembly is probably initiated by the formation of the RPB3–RPB11 heterodimer. RPB3 is encoded by a single copy gene in the yeast, mouse and human genomes. The RPB11 gene is also unique in yeast and mouse, but in humans a gene family has been identified that potentially encodes several RPB11 proteins differing mainly in their C-terminal regions. We compared the abilities of both yeast and human proteins to heterodimerize. We show that the yeast RPB3/RPB11 heterodimer critically depends on the presence of the C-terminal region of RPB11. In contrast, the human heterodimer tolerates significant changes in RPB11 C-terminus, allowing two human RPB11 variants to heterodimerize with the same efficiency with RPB3. In keeping with this observation, the interactions between the conserved N-terminal ‘α-motifs’ is much more important for heterodimerization of the human subunits than for those in yeast. These data indicate that the heterodimerization interfaces have been modified during the course of evolution to allow a recent diversification of the human RPB11 subunits that remains compatible with heterodimerization with RPB3.
PMCID: PMC1159119  PMID: 15987790
3.  A human RNA polymerase II subunit is encoded by a recently generated multigene family 
The sequences encoding the yeast RNA polymerase II (RPB) subunits are single copy genes.
While those characterized so far for the human (h) RPB are also unique, we show that hRPB subunit 11 (hRPB11) is encoded by a multigene family, mapping on chromosome 7 at loci p12, q11.23 and q22. We focused on two members of this family, hRPB11a and hRPB11b: the first encodes subunit hRPB11a, which represents the major RPB11 component of the mammalian RPB complex ; the second generates polypeptides hRPB11bα and hRPB11bβ through differential splicing of its transcript and shares homologies with components of the hPMS2L multigene family related to genes involved in mismatch-repair functions (MMR). Both hRPB11a and b genes are transcribed in all human tissues tested. Using an inter-species complementation assay, we show that only hRPB11bα is functional in yeast. In marked contrast, we found that the unique murine homolog of RPB11 gene maps on chromosome 5 (band G), and encodes a single polypeptide which is identical to subunit hRPB11a.
The type hRPB11b gene appears to result from recent genomic recombination events in the evolution of primates, involving sequence elements related to the MMR apparatus.
PMCID: PMC61041  PMID: 11747469
4.  Partners of Rpb8p, a Small Subunit Shared by Yeast RNA Polymerases I, II, and III 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2001;21(17):6056-6065.
Rpb8p, a subunit common to the three yeast RNA polymerases, is conserved among eukaryotes and absent from noneukaryotes. Defective mutants were found at an invariant GGLLM motif and at two other highly conserved amino acids. With one exception, they are clustered on the Rpb8p structure. They all impair a two-hybrid interaction with a fragment conserved in the largest subunits of RNA polymerases I (Rpa190p), II (Rpb1p), and III (Rpc160p). This fragment corresponds to the pore 1 module of the RNA polymerase II crystal structure and bears a highly conserved motif (P.I.KP..LW.GKQ) facing the GGLLM motif of Rpb8p. An RNA polymerase I mutant (rpa190-G728D) at the invariant glycyl of P.I.KP..LW.GKQ provokes a temperature-sensitive defect. Increasing the gene dosage of another common subunit, Rpb6p, suppresses this phenotype. It also suppresses a conditional growth defect observed when replacing Rpb8p by its human counterpart. Hence, Rpb6p and Rpb8p functionally interact in vivo. These two subunits are spatially separated by the pore 1 module and may also be possibly connected by the disorganized N half of Rpb6p, not included in the present structure data. Human Rpb6p is phosphorylated at its N-terminal Ser2, but an alanyl replacement at this position still complements an rpb6-Δ null allele. A two-hybrid interaction also occurs between Rpb8p and the product of orphan gene YGR089w. A ygr089-Δ null mutant has no detectable growth defect but aggravates the conditional growth defect of rpb8 mutants, suggesting that the interaction with Rpb8p may be physiologically relevant.
PMCID: PMC87322  PMID: 11486042

Results 1-4 (4)