Indexed on: 20 May '04Published on: 20 May '04Published in: Journal of bacteriology
Archaeal RNA polymerases (RNAPs) are closely related to eukaryotic RNAPs, and in Euryarchaea, genomic DNA is wrapped and compacted by histones into archaeal nucleosomes. In eukaryotes, transcription of DNA bound into nucleosomes is facilitated by histone tail modifications and chromatin remodeling complexes, but archaeal histones do not have histone tails and archaeal genome sequences provide no evidence for archaeal homologs of eukaryotic chromatin remodeling complexes. We have therefore investigated the ability of an archaeal RNAP, purified from Methanothermobacter thermautotrophicus, to transcribe DNA bound into an archaeal nucleosome by HMtA2, an archaeal histone from M. thermautotrophicus. To do so, we constructed a template that allows transcript elongation to be separated from transcription initiation, on which archaeal nucleosome assembly is positioned downstream from the site of transcription initiation. At 58 degrees C, in the absence of an archaeal nucleosome, M. thermautotrophicus RNAP transcribed this template DNA at a rate of approximately 20 nucleotides per second. With an archaeal nucleosome present, transcript elongation was slowed but not blocked, with transcription pausing at sites before and within the archaeal nucleosome. With additional HMtA2 binding, complexes were obtained that also incorporated the upstream regulatory region. This inhibited transcription presumably by preventing archaeal TATA-box binding protein, general transcription factor TFB, and RNAP access and thus inhibiting transcription initiation.