The structure of the general transcription factor IIB (TFIIB) in a complex with RNA polymerase II reveals three features crucial for transcription initiation: an N-terminal zinc ribbon domain of TFIIB that contacts the "dock" domain of the polymerase, near the path of RNA exit from a transcribing enzyme; a "finger" domain of TFIIB that is inserted into the polymerase active center; and a C-terminal domain, whose interaction with both the polymerase and with a TATA box-binding protein (TBP)-promoter DNA complex orients the DNA for unwinding and transcription. TFIIB stabilizes an early initiation complex, containing an incomplete RNA-DNA hybrid region. It may interact with the template strand, which sets the location of the transcription start site, and may interfere with RNA exit, which leads to abortive initiation or promoter escape. The trajectory-of promoter DNA determined by the C-terminal domain of TFIIB traverses sites of interaction with TFIIE, TFIIF, and TFIIH, serving to define their roles in the transcription initiation process.
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