KIN28 encodes a C-terminal domain kinase that controls mRNA transcription in Saccharomyces cerevisiae but lacks cyclin-dependent kinase-activating kinase (CAK) activity.
The Saccharomyces cerevisiae gene KIN28 is a member of the cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK) family. The Kin28 protein shares extensive sequence identity with the vertebrate CDK-activating kinase MO15 (Cdk7), which phosphorylates CDKs in vitro on a critical threonine residue. Kin28 and MO15 have recently been found to copurify with the transcription factor IIH (TFIIH) holoenzyme of yeast and human cells, respectively. Although TFIIH is capable of phosphorylating the C-terminal domain (CTD) of RNA polymerase II, it has been unclear whether Kin28 is the physiologically relevant CTD kinase or what role CTD phosphorylation plays in transcription. In this study, we used a thermosensitive allele of KIN28 and a hemagglutinin epitope-tagged Kin28 protein to investigate Kin28 function in transcription and in the cell cycle. We show that Kin28 acts as a positive regulator of mRNA transcription in vivo and possesses CTD kinase activity in vitro. However, Kin28 neither regulates the phosphorylation state of the yeast cell cycle CDK, Cdc28, nor possesses CDK-activating kinase activity in vitro. We conclude that Kin28 is a strong candidate for the physiological CTD kinase of S. cerevisiae and that Kin28 function is required for mRNA transcription.