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Human nuclei contain three RNA polymerases (I, II and III) that transcribe different groups of genes; the active forms of all three are difficult to isolate because they are bound to the substructure. Here we describe a purification approach for isolating active RNA polymerase complexes from mammalian cells. After isolation, we analyzed their protein content by mass spectrometry. Each complex represents part of the core of a transcription factory. For example, the RNA polymerase II complex contains subunits unique to RNA polymerase II plus various transcription factors but shares a number of ribonucleoproteins with the other polymerase complexes; it is also rich in polymerase II transcripts. We also describe a native chromosome conformation capture method to confirm that the complexes remain attached to the same pairs of DNA templates found in vivo.

Original publication




Journal article


Nat Methods

Publication Date





963 - 968


DNA-Directed RNA Polymerases, HeLa Cells, Humans, Proteome, RNA, Messenger, Transcription, Genetic