* To whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received October 26, 2012; Revision received December 10, 2012
In the genomes of humans and other mammals a large number of closely spaced pairs of genes that are transcribed in opposite directions were revealed. Their transcription is directed by so-called bidirectional promoters. This review is devoted to the characteristics of bidirectional promoters and features of their structure. The composition of “core” promoter elements in conventional unidirectional and bidirectional promoters is compared. Data on binding sites of transcription factors that are primarily specific for bidirectional promoters are discussed. The examples of promoters that share protein-coding genes transcribed by RNA polymerase II and the non-coding RNA genes transcribed by RNA polymerase III are described. Data obtained from global transcriptome analysis about the existence of short noncoding antisense RNA associated with the promoters in the context of the hypothesis of bidirectional transcription initiation as an inherent property of eukaryotic promoters are discussed.
KEY WORDS: genome structure, bidirectional promoters, divergent transcription, transcriptome, promoter core-elements, transcription initiation, CpG islands, transcription factors, short noncoding RNAs