The promoter contains specific DNA sequences that are recognized by proteins known as transcription factors. These factors bind to the promoter sequences, recruiting RNA polymerase, the enzyme that synthesizes the RNA from the coding region of the gene.
It is worth noting that promoters are not DNA specific, and can in fact locate upstream towards the 3' end of a RNA genome, e.g. Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV).
As promoters are typically immediately adjacent to the gene in question, positions in the promoter are designated relative to the transcriptional start site, where transcription of RNA begins for a particular gene (i.e., positions upstream are negative numbers counting back from -1, for example -100 is a position 100 base pairs upstream).
In prokaryotes, the promoter consists of two short sequences at -10 and -35 positions upstream from the transcription start site. Sigma factors not only help in enhancing RNAP binding to the promoter but helps RNAP target which genes to transcribe.
It should be noted that the above promoter sequences are only recognized by the sigma-70 protein that interacts with the prokaryotic RNA polymerase. Complexes of prokaryotic RNA polymerase with other sigma factors recognize totally different core promoter sequences.
<-- upstream downstream --> 5'-XXXXXXXPPPPPXXXXXXPPPPPPXXXXGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGXXXX-3' -35 -10 Gene to be transcribed . (note that the optimal spacing between the -35 and -10 sequences is 17 nt)
for -10 sequence T A T A A T 77% 76% 60% 61% 56% 82%
for -35 sequence T T G A C A 69% 79% 61% 56% 54% 54%
Eukaryotic promoters are extremely diverse and are difficult to characterize. They typically lie upstream of the gene and can have regulatory elements several kilobases away from the transcriptional start site. In eukaryotes, the transcriptional complex can cause the DNA to bend back on itself, which allows for placement of regulatory sequences far from the actual site of transcription. Many eukaryotic promoters, but by no means all, contain a TATA box (sequence TATAAA), which in turn binds a TATA binding protein which assists in the formation of the RNA polymerase transcriptional complex. The TATA box typically lies very close to the transcriptional start site (often within 50 bases).
Eukaryotic promoter regulatory sequences typically bind proteins called transcription factors which are involved in the formation of the transcriptional complex. An example is the E-box (sequence CACGTG), which binds transcription factors in the basic-helix-loop-helix (bHLH) family (e.g. BMAL1-Clock, cMyc).
A wide variety of algorithms have been developed to facilitate detection of promoters in genomic sequence, and promoter prediction is a common element of many gene prediction methods.
A major question in evolutionary biology is how important tinkering with promoter sequences is to evolutionary change, for example, the changes that have occurred in the human lineage after separating from chimps.
Some evolutionary biologists, for example Allan Wilson, have proposed that evolution in promoter or regulatory regions may be more important than changes in coding sequences over such time frames.
Though OMIM is a major resource for gathering information on the relationship between mutations and natural variation in gene sequence and susceptibility to hundreds of diseases, it requires a sophisticated search strategy to extract those diseases that are associated with defects in transcriptional control where the promoter is believed to have direct involvement.
This is a list of diseases that evidence suggests have some involvement of promoter malfunction, either through direct mutation of a promoter sequence or mutation in a transcription factor or transcriptional co-activator.
Keep in mind that most diseases are heterogeneous in etiology, meaning that one "disease" is often many different diseases at the molecular level, though the symptoms exhibited and the response to treatment might be identical. How diseases respond differently to treatment as a result of differences in the underlying molecular origins is partially addressed by the discipline of pharmacogenomics.
The usage of canonical sequence for a promoter is often problematic, and can lead to misunderstandings about promoter sequences. Canonical implies perfect, in some sense.
In the case of a transcription factor binding site, then there may be a single sequence which binds the protein most strongly under specified cellular conditions. This might be called canonical.
However, natural selection may favor less energetic binding as a way of regulating transcriptional output. In this case, we may call the most common sequence in a population, the wild-type sequence. It may not even be the most advantageous sequence to have under prevailing conditions.
The content of this section is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License (local copy). It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Promoter" modified December 22, 2007 with previous authors listed in its history.