Document Type


Date of Degree

Fall 2009

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Molecular and Cellular Biology

First Advisor

Price, David H.

First Committee Member

Colgan, John

Second Committee Member

Shea, Madeline

Third Committee Member

Wallrath, Lori

Fourth Committee Member

McCaffrey, Anton


Regulation of transcription elongation by P-TEFb is critical for proper gene expression and cell survival. The cell possesses large quantities of P-TEFb, but the vast majority of it is locked away and inactive in the 7SK snRNP. Since the discovery of the 7SK snRNP, research has been conducted to determine how P-TEFb is released from this complex. The goal of the research presented in this thesis is to better understand how the 7SK snRNP regulates P-TEFb and ultimately, gene expression.

This work documents the discovery and characterization of the 7SK stability protein LARP7. LARP7 is is associated with 7SK regardless of the presence of P-TEFb and HEXIM1. Stabilization of 7SK is essential for maintenance of the RNP because loss of LARP7 results in an increase in free P-TEFb and a significant reduction in the amount of 7SK. These results indicate that stabilization of the 7SK snRNP by LARP7 is important for regulating P-TEFb homeostasis.

Although P-TEFb was first characterized from Drosophila lysates, the conservation of the 7SK snRNP and the mechanisms regulating P-TEFb inhibition have not been described. Here, the Drosophila melanogaster homologues of LARP7 and 7SK are characterized. These studies show that the system of P-TEFb regulation is similar in flies and this makes Drosophila an attractive model system for studying P-TEFb regulation through embryonic and larval development.

Finally, factors and modifications involved in releasing P-TEFb directly are explored. An assay was developed for discovering proteins that can bind to and release P-TEFb from the 7SK snRNP. Use of this assay showed that post-translational modification of the components of the 7SK snRNP do not cause P-TEFb release directly. However, HIV Tat and the C-terminal P-TEFb binding region of the bromodomain containing protein, Brd4, are capable of extracting P-TEFb directly. Most importantly, the release of P-TEFb is followed by a conformational change in 7SK RNA that prevents the continued binding of HEXIM1 to the complex. P-TEFb release from the 7SK snRNP is the result of direct extraction of P-TEFb by viral or cellular proteins, and not post-translational modifications or a competition between HEXIM1 and hnRNP proteins for 7SK binding.


7SK, 7SK snRNP, Conformational Change, Drosophila, LARP7, P-TEFb


xi, 130 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 121-130).


Copyright 2009 Brian J. Krueger

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