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Strukturelle Biochemie

Institute of Biochemistry, Genetics and Microbiology
Structural Biochemistry
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Cramer Engel Whole Op Pol I

Cryo-EM reconstruction of the yeast RNA polymerase I initially transcribing
complex including Rrn3 and Core Factor (Engel et al., Cell 2017; and

Pilsl & Engel, Nature Communications 2020)




Research Topic

Assembly of eukaryotic ribosomes is centered around the four ribosomal RNAs (rRNAs). The nascent ribosomal RNA precursor contains three of these rRNAs and is transcribed by the RNA polymerase (Pol) I machinery. In contrast to other polymerases, Pol I has evolved a minimal, but extremely specific and highly regulated set of transcription factors for the synthesis of its sole target.

Over the past years, structural analysis of Pol I and its transcription machinery has revealed stunning differences but also striking similarities with Pol II and Pol III. We used X-ray crystallography to solve the first 3D structure of the entire 14-subunit, 590 kDa Pol I enzyme from yeast at atomic resolution (Engel et al., Nature 2013). Combining results from crystallography with recent advances in cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) now allows the application of an integrated structural biology hybrid approach for the analysis of transient, regulatory complexes. This enabled us to study transcription initiation intermediates (Engel et al., Nature Communications 2016), elongation complexes (Neyer et al., Nature 2016) and multi-factor DNA/RNA/protein assemblies active in transcription (Engel et al., Cell 2017).

Continuing and expanding the structural analysis of Pol I and its transcription machinery with this integrated approach holds the promise to generate textbook knowledge about the critical process of rRNA synthesis common to all eukaryotic cells. In combination with biochemical analysis (Lisica, Engel et al, PNAS 2016 and Engel, Meth.Mol.Biol. 2016) we pursue a hypothesis-driven experimental approach that continues to unravel the structural features of the Pol I transcription cycle (Engel et al., Annu Rev Biophys 2018).


Christoph Engel

Associate Professor
for Structural Biochemistry

Dr-christoph-engel Web

Phone: +49 (941) 943 2718
Room: VKL 1.0.15a