Our understanding of the elaborate mechanism of gene transcription initiation in eukaryotes has been widened by recent structural information on some of the key components of the complex preinitiation transcriptional machinery. The high-resolution structures of both bacterial and eukaryotic polymerases are technical landmarks of great biological significance that have given us the first molecular insight into the mechanism of this large enzyme. While new atomic structures of different domains of general transcription factors, such as the double bromodomain of TAF250, have become available by means of X-ray crystallography and NMR studies, more global pictures of multisubunit transcription complexes, such as TFIID, TFIIH or the yeast mediator, have now been obtained by electron microscopy and image-reconstruction techniques. A combination of methodologies may prove essential for a complete structural description of the initial steps in the expression of eukaryotic genes.

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