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This article has been peer reviewed. It is the authors' final version prior to publication in Nature Structural and Molecular Biology, Volume 25, Issue 9, September 2018, Pages 754-765.

The published version is available at Copyright © Springer Nature America, Inc.


The mitochondrial genome is transcribed by a single-subunit DNA-dependent RNA polymerase (mtRNAP) and its auxiliary factors. Structural studies have elucidated how mtRNAP cooperates with its dedicated transcription factors to direct RNA synthesis: initiation factors TFAM and TFB2M assist in promoter-DNA binding and opening by mtRNAP while the elongation factor TEFM increases polymerase processivity to the levels required for synthesis of long polycistronic mtRNA transcripts. Here, we review the emerging body of structural and functional studies of human mitochondrial transcription, provide a molecular movie that can be used for teaching purposes and discuss the open questions to guide future directions of investigation.

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