The RNA polymerase II core promoter is a critical yet often overlooked component in the transcription process. The core promoter is defined as the stretch of DNA, which encompasses the RNA start site and is typically approx. 40–50 nt in length, that directs the initiation of gene transcription. In the past, it has been generally presumed that core promoters are general in function and that transcription initiation occurs via a common shared mechanism. Recent studies have revealed, however, that there is considerable diversity in core promoter structure and function. There are a number of DNA elements that contribute to core promoter activity, and the specific properties of a given core promoter are dictated by the presence or absence of these core promoter motifs. The known core promoter elements include the TATA box, Inr (initiator), BREu {BRE [TFIIB (transcription factor for RNA polymerase IIB) recognition element] upstream of the TATA box} and BREd (BRE downstream of the TATA box), MTE (motif ten element), DCE (downstream core element) and DPE (downstream core promoter element). In this paper, we will provide some perspectives on current and future issues that pertain to the RNA polymerase II core promoter.

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