Osman S, Cramer P
Annual Review of Cell and Developmental Biology
Annu Rev Cell Dev Biol. 2020 Oct 6;36:1-34.
Gene transcription by RNA polymerase II (Pol II) is the first step in the expression of the eukaryotic genome and a focal point for cellular regulation during development, differentiation, and responses to the environment. Two decades after the determination of the structure of Pol II, the mechanisms of transcription have been elucidated with studies of Pol II complexes with nucleic acids and associated proteins. Here we provide an overview of the nearly 200 available Pol II complex structures and summarize how these structures have elucidated promoter-dependent transcription initiation, promoter-proximal pausing and release of Pol II into active elongation, and the mechanisms that Pol II uses to navigate obstacles such as nucleosomes and DNA lesions. We predict that future studies will focus on how Pol II transcription is interconnected with chromatin transitions, RNA processing, and DNA repair.