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RNA polymerase II transcribes most eukaryotic genes. Its catalytic subunit was tagged with green fluorescent protein and expressed in Chinese hamster cells bearing a mutation in the same subunit; it complemented the defect and so was functional. Photobleaching revealed two kinetic fractions of polymerase in living nuclei: approximately 75% moved rapidly, but approximately 25% was transiently immobile (association t1/2 approximately 20 min) and transcriptionally active, as incubation with 5,6-dichloro-1-beta-D-ribofuranosylbenzimidazole eliminated it. No immobile but inactive fraction was detected, providing little support for the existence of a stable holoenzyme, or the slow stepwise assembly of a preinitiation complex on promoters or the nuclear substructure. Actinomycin D decreased the rapidly moving fraction, suggesting that engaged polymerases stall at intercalated molecules while others initiate. When wild-type cells containing only the endogenous enzyme were incubated with [3H]uridine, nascent transcripts became saturated with tritium with similar kinetics (t1/2 approximately 14 min). These data are consistent with a polymerase being mobile for one half to five sixths of a transcription cycle, and rapid assembly into the preinitiation complex. Then, most expressed transcription units would spend significant times unassociated with engaged polymerases.

Original publication




Journal article


J Cell Biol

Publication Date





777 - 782


Animals, Cell Line, Cell Nucleus, Cells, Cultured, Cricetinae, Dactinomycin, Dichlororibofuranosylbenzimidazole, Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic, Green Fluorescent Proteins, Kinetics, Luminescent Proteins, Models, Genetic, Mutagenesis, Mutation, Nucleic Acid Synthesis Inhibitors, Periodicity, Photobleaching, RNA Polymerase II, Temperature, Time Factors, Transcription Factors, Transcription, Genetic