CDKs (cyclin-dependent kinases) ensure directionality and fidelity of the eukaryotic cell division cycle. In a similar fashion, the transcription cycle is governed by a conserved subfamily of CDKs that phosphorylate Pol II (RNA polymerase II) and other substrates. A genetic model organism, the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe, has yielded robust models of cell-cycle control, applicable to higher eukaryotes. From a similar approach combining classical and chemical genetics, fundamental principles of transcriptional regulation by CDKs are now emerging. In the present paper, we review the current knowledge of each transcriptional CDK with respect to its substrate specificity, function in transcription and effects on chromatin modifications, highlighting the important roles of CDKs in ensuring quantity and quality control over gene expression in eukaryotes.

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