Defining the role of Mtf1 and N-terminal domain of Rpo41 in transcription initiation and replication
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Mitochondrion is an organelle found in the eukaryotic cell. It is responsible for essential metabolic processes as well as ATP production via oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS). The mitochondrion contains DNA that encodes for several subunits in the OXPHOS system as well as rRNA and tRNA for translation. It also has its own replication, transcription and translation machinery. Proper maintenance of the mitochondrial DNA is critical for the cell’s health. Saccharomyces cerevisiae mitochondrial transcription system has been a great model system for its ease of genetic manipulation as well as having conserved RNA polymerases across species. The polymerases are homologues to T7 RNA polymerase, but have longer N-terminal domain and require transcription factor(s). The reason for the extra domain as well as the need for an accessory factor is still unclear. This study reveals the role of Rpo41 N-terminal domain (NTD) as well as clarifies the role of Mtf1, the transcription factor, in transcription initiation. Rpo41 is the 153 kDa catalytic subunit, and Mtf1 is 40 kDa, the transcription factor of the yeast mitochondria. We have shown that Mtf1 is required for correct promoter sequence recognition as well as inhibition of incorrect initiation. Although it was thought that Rpo41 has intrinsic promoter recognition capability, we have shown that Rpo41 can initiate transcription on a pre-melted DNA, even if it is not the consensus promoter sequence. N-terminal truncation mutant studies showed that the NTD of Rpo41 is also required for correct transcription initiation. On linear duplex DNA, N-terminal truncation of 321 amino acids has little effect when Mtf1 is present. On pre-melted DNA, it shows opposite trend from the wild-type. 160 N-terminal amino acid residue truncation shows little activity, whereas Mtf1 increases activity, even on non-promoter initiation sites. We further investigated properties of Rpo41 in replication. A link between mitochondrial transcription and replication has been suggested before, where Rpo41 functions as the leading strand primase. Our studies show that Rpo41 can indeed function as the leading and lagging strand primase, and explains why Rpo41 is able to initiate transcription on non-promoter sites. N-terminal truncation resulted in loss of primase activity, which shows that NTD is required for replication.