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Journal Articles FEBS Letters Year : 2001

The 14th Datta Lecture. TFIIH: from transcription to clinic


Once a large proportion of the genes responsible for genetic disorders are identified in the post-genome era, the fundamental challenge is to establish a genotype/phenotype relationship. Our aim is to explain how mutations in a given gene affect its enzymatic function and, in consequence, disturb the life of the cell. Genome integrity is continuously threatened by the occurrence of DNA damage arising from cellular exposure to irradiation and genotoxic chemicals. This mutagenic or potentially lethal DNA damage induces various cellular responses including cell cycle arrest, transcription alteration and processing by DNA repair mechanisms, such as the nucleotide excision repair (NER) pathway. Disruption of NER in response to genotoxic injuries results in autosomal recessive hereditary diseases such as Xeroderma pigmentosum (XP), Cockayne syndrome (CS) and trichothiodystrophy (TTD). One of the most immediate consequences of the induction of strand-distorting lesions is the arrest of transcription in which TFIIH plays a role in addition to its role in DNA repair. The observations made by clinicians close to XP, TTD and CS patients, suggested that transcription defects responsible for brittle hair and nails for TTD, or developmental abnormalities for CS, resulted from TFIIH mutations. Here a story will be related which could be called 'a multi-faceted factor named TFIIH'. As biochemists, we have characterized each component of TFIIH, three of which are XPB and XPD helicases and cdk7, a cyclin-dependent kinase. With the help of structural biologists, we have characterized most of the specific three-dimensional structures of TFIIH subunits and obtained its electron microscopy image. Together these approaches help us to propose a number of structure-function relationships for TFIIH. Through transfection and microinjection assays, cell biology allows us to determine the role of TFIIH in transcription and NER. We are thus in a position to explain, at least in part, transcription initiation mechanisms and their coupling to DNA repair. We now know how the XPB helicase opens the promoter region for RNA synthesis and that one of the roles of XPD helicase is to anchor the cdk7 kinase to the core-TFIIH. In XP and CS associated patients, we have demonstrated that some XPD mutations prevent an optimal phosphorylation of nuclear receptors by cdk7 with, as a consequence, a drop in the expression of genes sensitive to hormone action. We have thus shown that hormonal responses operate through TFIIH. Careful analysis of each TFIIH subunit also shows how the p44 Ring finger participates in certain promoter escape reactions. We are also able to localize the action of TFIIH in the sequence of events that lead to the elimination of DNA lesions. Thanks to the combination of these different approaches we are obtaining a much clearer picture of the TFIIH complex and its integration into the life of the cell.

Dates and versions

hal-04121556 , version 1 (07-06-2023)



Jean-Marc Egly. The 14th Datta Lecture. TFIIH: from transcription to clinic. FEBS Letters, 2001, 498 (2-3), pp.124-128. ⟨10.1016/s0014-5793(01)02458-9⟩. ⟨hal-04121556⟩
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