Molecular cell

Subunit compositions of the RNA-silencing enzymes Pol IV and Pol V reveal their origins as specialized forms of RNA polymerase II.

PMID 19110459


In addition to RNA polymerases I, II, and III, the essential RNA polymerases present in all eukaryotes, plants have two additional nuclear RNA polymerases, abbreviated as Pol IV and Pol V, that play nonredundant roles in siRNA-directed DNA methylation and gene silencing. We show that Arabidopsis Pol IV and Pol V are composed of subunits that are paralogous or identical to the 12 subunits of Pol II. Four subunits of Pol IV are distinct from their Pol II paralogs, six subunits of Pol V are distinct from their Pol II paralogs, and four subunits differ between Pol IV and Pol V. Importantly, the subunit differences occur in key positions relative to the template entry and RNA exit paths. Our findings support the hypothesis that Pol IV and Pol V are Pol II-like enzymes that evolved specialized roles in the production of noncoding transcripts for RNA silencing and genome defense.