A rice U3 small nuclear RNA (snRNA)-encoding gene has been isolated. The coding region of this gene contains all five conserved sequence boxes common to plant U3 snRNAs. The upstream and downstream regions of the gene harbour characteristic sequence elements required for transcription with RNA polymerase III (pol III), as well as three monocot-specific promoter (MSP) elements, two of them comprising a palindromic G+C-rich segment. The sequence (TTTAAAA) of the TATA-box in this gene does not fit the established consensus, making this gene unique among reported snRNA-encoding genes of plants. An RNase protection assay showed that the gene is expressed properly in cucumber protoplasts. We thus suggest that, with other promoter elements present, the TATA-box for RNA pol III-specific snRNA-encoding genes may not be as well conserved as that for RNA pol II-specific genes.
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