Identification of multiple rate-limiting steps during the human mitochondrial transcription cycle in vitro

Maria F. Lodeiro, Akira U. Uchida, Jamie J. Arnold, Shelley L. Reynolds, Ibrahim M. Moustafa, Craig E. Cameron

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


We have reconstituted human mitochondrial transcription in vitro on DNA oligonucleotide templates representing the light strand and heavy strand-1 promoters using protein components (RNA polymerase and transcription factors A and B2) isolated from Escherichia coli. We show that 1 eq of each transcription factor and polymerase relative to the promoter is required to assemble a functional initiation complex. The light strand promoter is at least 2-fold more efficient than the heavy strand-1 promoter, but this difference cannot be explained solely by the differences in the interaction of the transcription machinery with the different promoters. In both cases, the rate-limiting step for production of the first phosphodiester bond is open complex formation. Open complex formation requires both transcription factors; however, steps immediately thereafter only require transcription factor B2. The concentration of nucleotide required for production of the first dinucleotide product is substantially higher than that required for subsequent cycles of nucleotide addition. In vitro, promoter-specific differences in post-initiation control of transcription exist, as well as a second rate-limiting step that controls conversion of the transcription initiation complex into a transcription elongation complex. Rate-limiting steps of the biochemical pathways are often those that are targeted for regulation. Like the more complex multisubunit transcription systems, multiple steps may exist for control of transcription in human mitochondria. The tools and mechanistic framework presented here will facilitate not only the discovery of mechanisms regulating human mitochondrial transcription but also interrogation of the structure, function, and mechanism of the complexes that are regulated during human mitochondrial transcription.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16387-16402
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number21
StatePublished - May 21 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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