A promoter is a segment of a gene of about 100–400 base pairs that comprises the transcription initiation site and a collection of short deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) sequences that bind proteins involved in regulating transcription. The proteins that bind to the promoter mediate the recruitment of a ribonucleic acid (RNA) polymerase to the initiation site and play a major role in dictating when, and in which cells, the gene is expressed.

Keywords: promoter; transcription; RNA polymerase; TATA box; initiator element

Figure 1.

Core promoter elements. Three DNA elements that are commonly found in core promoters for mammalian genes are shown, along with the consensus sequence for each element. Inr: initiator element; DPE: downstream promoter element; Py: C or T; N: any nucleotide.

Figure 2.

Mechanism of promoter function. (Top) DNA elements in the promoter for a generic protein‐coding gene. (Bottom) Gene‐specific activators in association with the distal promoter and general factors in association with the core promoter. Coactivator proteins help the DNA‐bound activators to communicate with the general factors. Inr: initiator element; DPE: downstream promoter element; RNA Pol II: RNA polymerase II; TAFs: TATA‐binding protein (TBP)‐associated factors; IIA etc.: transcription factors.



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Further Reading

Britten RJ and Davidson EH (1969) Gene regulation for higher cells: a theory. Science 165: 349–357.

Carey M and Smale ST (2000) Transcriptional Regulation in Eukaryotes: Concepts, Strategies, and Techniques. Cold Spring Harbor, NY: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.

Ernst P and Smale ST (1995) Combinatorial regulation of transcription. I: general aspects of transcriptional control. Immunity 2: 311–319.

Jacob F and Monod J (1961) Genetic regulatory mechanisms in the synthesis of proteins. Journal of Molecular Biology 3: 318–356.

Kornberg RD (1999) Eukaryotic transcriptional control. Trends in Cell Biology 9: M46–M49.

Näär AM, Ryu S and Tjian R (1998) Cofactor requirements for transcriptional activation by Sp1. Cold Spring Harbor Symposia on Quantitative Biology 63: 189–199.

Ptashne M (1987) A Genetic Switch: Phage λ and Higher Organisms, 2nd edn. Cambridge, MA: Cell Press/Blackwell Scientific.

Tjian R (1995) Molecular machines that control genes. Scientific American 272: 54–61.

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How to Cite close
Smale, Stephen T(Sep 2005) Promoters. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0005025]