All eukaryotes have three essential nuclearmultisubunit RNA polymerases, abbreviated as Pol I, Pol II and Pol III. Plants are remarkable in having two additional multisubunit RNA polymerases, Pol IV and Pol V, which synthesize noncoding RNAs that coordinate RNA-directed DNA methylation for silencing of transposons and a subset of genes. Based on their subunit compositions, Pols IV and V clearly evolved as specialized forms of Pol II, but their catalytic properties remain undefined. Here, we show that Pols IV and V differ from one another, and Pol II, in nucleotide incorporation rate, transcriptional accuracy and the ability to discriminate between ribonucleotides and deoxyribonucleotides. Pol IV transcription is considerably more error-prone than Pols II or V, whichmay be tolerable in its synthesis of short RNAs that serve as precursors for siRNAs targeting non-identical members of transposon families. By contrast, Pol V exhibits high fidelity transcription, similar to Pol II, suggesting a need for Pol V transcripts to faithfully reflect theDNAsequence of target loci to which siRNA-Argonaute silencing complexes are recruited.
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