The proto-oncogene product c-Myc can induce cell growth and proliferation. It regulates a large number of RNA polymerase II-transcribed genes, many of which encode ribosomal proteins, translation factors and other components of the biosynthetic apparatus. We have found that c-Myc can also activate transcription by RNA polymerases I and III, thereby stimulating production of rRNA and tRNA. As such, c-Myc may possess the unprecedented capacity to induce expression of all ribosomal components. This may explain its potent ability to drive cell growth, which depends on the accumulation of ribosomes. The activation of RNA polymerase II transcription by c-Myc is often inefficient, but its induction of rRNA and tRNA genes can be very strong in comparison. We will describe what is known about the mechanisms used by c-Myc to activate transcription by RNA polymerases I and II.
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