Structure, mechanism, and regulation of mitochondrial DNA transcription initiationMitochondria are specialized compartments that produce requisite ATP to fuel cellular functions and serve as centers of metabolite processing, cellular signaling, and apoptosis. To accomplish these roles, mitochondria rely on the genetic information in their small genome (mitochondrial DNA) and the nucleus. A growing appreciation for mitochondria's role in a myriad of human diseases, including inherited genetic disorders, degenerative diseases, inflammation, and cancer, has fueled the study of biochemical mechanisms that control mitochondrial function.
The many lives of type IA topoisomerasesThe double-helical structure of genomic DNA is both elegant and functional in that it serves both to protect vulnerable DNA bases and to facilitate DNA replication and compaction. However, these design advantages come at the cost of having to evolve and maintain a cellular machinery that can manipulate a long polymeric molecule that readily becomes topologically entangled whenever it has to be opened for translation, replication, or repair. If such a machinery fails to eliminate detrimental topological entanglements, utilization of the information stored in the DNA double helix is compromised.
Human DNA polymerase η has reverse transcriptase activity in cellular environmentsClassical DNA and RNA polymerase (pol) enzymes have defined roles with their respective substrates, but several pols have been found to have multiple functions. We reported previously that purified human DNA pol η (hpol η) can incorporate both deoxyribonucleoside triphosphates (dNTPs) and ribonucleoside triphosphates (rNTPs) and can use both DNA and RNA as substrates. X-ray crystal structures revealed that two pol η residues, Phe-18 and Tyr-92, behave as steric gates to influence sugar selectivity.
Minimalism and functionality: Structural lessons from the heterodimeric N4 bacteriophage RNA polymerase IIGenomes of phages, mitochondria, and chloroplasts are transcribed by a diverse group of transcriptional machineries with structurally related single-subunit RNA polymerases (RNAPs). Our understanding of transcription mechanisms of these enzymes is predominantly based on biochemical and structural studies of three most-studied members, transcription factor–independent phage T7 RNAP, transcription factor–dependent phage N4 virion-encapsidated RNAP, and transcription factor–dependent mitochondrial RNAPs (mtRNAP).