Archaeal chromatin and transcription

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Summary

Archaea contain a variety of sequence-independent DNA binding proteins consistent with the evolution of several different, sometimes overlapping and exchangeable solutions to the problem of genome compaction. Some of these proteins undergo residue-specific post-translational lysine acetylation or methylation, hinting at analogues of the histone modifications that regulate eukaryotic chromatin structure and transcription. Archaeal transcription initiation most closely resembles the eukaryotic RNA polymerase II (RNAPII) system, but Archaea do not appear to have homologues of the multisubunit complexes that remodel eukaryotic chromatin and activate RNAPII initiation. In contrast, they have sequence-specific regulators that repress and perhaps activate archaeal transcription by mechanisms superficially similar to the bacterial paradigm of regulating promoter binding by RNAP. Repressors compete with archaeal TATA-box binding protein (TBP) and TFB for the TATA-box and TFB-recognition elements (BRE) of the archaeal promoter, or with archaeal RNAP for the site of transcription initiation. Transcript-specific regulation by repressors binding to sites of transcript initiation is consistent with such sites having very little sequence conservation. However, most Archaea have only one TBP and/or TFB that presumably must therefore bind to similar TATA-box and BRE sequences upstream of most genes. Repressors that function by competing with TBP and/or TFB binding must therefore also make additional contacts with transcript-specific regulatory sites adjacent or remote from the TATA-box/BRE region. The fate of the archaeal TBP and TFB following transcription initiation remains to be determined. Based on functional homology with their eukaryotic RNAPII-system counterparts, archaeal TBP and possibly also TFB should remain bound to the TATA-box/BRE region after transcription initiation. However, this seems unlikely as it might limit repressor competition at this site to only the first round of transcription initiation.

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