On the importance of being co-transcriptional
Karla M. Neugebauer
Max Planck Institute for Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Pfotenhauerstrasse 108, 01307 Dresden, Germany
Intense research in recent years has shown that many pre-mRNA processing events are co-transcriptional or at least begin during RNA synthesis by RNA polymerase II (Pol II). But is it important that pre-mRNA processing occurs co-transcriptionally? Whereas Pol II directs 5' capping of mRNA by binding to and recruiting all three capping activities to transcription units, co-transcriptional splicing is not obligatory. In some cases, such as alternative splicing, splicing may occur post-transcriptionally owing to the slower kinetics of splicing unfavorable introns. Despite recent models in which splicing factors are bound directly to the C-terminal domain (CTD) of Pol II, little evidence supports that view. Instead, interactions between snRNPs and transcription elongation factors provide the strongest molecular evidence for a physical link between transcription and splicing. Transcription termination depends on polyadenylation signals, but, like splicing, polyadenylation per se probably begins co-transcriptionally and continues post-transcriptionally. Nascent RNA plays an important role in determining which transcripts are polyadenylated and which alternative terminal exon is used. A recent addition to co-transcriptional RNA processing is a possible RNA surveillance step prior to release of the mRNP from the transcription unit, which appears to coordinate nuclear transport with mRNA processing and may be mediated by components of the nuclear exosome.
Key words: RNA polymerase II, Pre-mRNA processing, Transcription unit, Pre-mRNA splicing, Polyadenylation, 5' end capping of mRNA, Nuclear export
Source: Journal of Cell Science 115, 3865-3871 (2002)