University of Dundee

Dr Joost Zomerdijk

Molecular mechanisms and control in transcription by RNA polymerase I
Reader and Programme Lead for MSc Biomedical and Molecular Sciences programmes
D'Arcy Thompson Unit, School of Life Sciences, University of Dundee, Dundee
Full Telephone: 
+44 (0) 1382 384242, int ext 84242


Appropriately coordinated expression of genes is essential for normal cell growth, development and differentiation in all organisms. The control of expression of many genes in eukaryotes occurs at the level of transcription. The central objective in our laboratory is to achieve an understanding of the molecular mechanisms involved in transcription of the ribosomal RNA genes, mediated by RNA polymerase I, and the cellular control of this process. rRNA synthesis drives ribosome biogenesis and, therefore, is associated intricately with cell growth and proliferation. Deregulation of this process can lead to cell death, hyperproliferation or hypertrophy and has been linked to specific cancers and heart disease.

Our research is directed towards determination of: 

  • the role of the essential promoter selective TBP-TAF complex SL1 in coordinating the formation of transcription pre-initiation complexes
  • the molecular mechanism of activation by UBF of promoter escape by Pol I
  • the dynamics of the Pol I proteome
  • the link between cell growth and proliferation and Pol I transcription
  • the factors involved in promoting transcription elongation and re-initiation
  • the roles of novel growth-regulated and Pol I-associated factors in human cells


  • Programme Lead for MSc Biomedical and Molecular Sciences programmes
  • Module Manager Taught Postgraduate Programme (MSc) for modules ’Scientific Method and Skills’ (BS51009), 'Project Proposal and Associated Skills’ (BS52008) and ‘MSc Research Project’ (BS53004)
  • Module Manager for Undergraduate (UG) Level 4 in 'Advanced Gene Regulation and Expression' (BS42010)
  • Module Manager for UG Level 3 in 'Gene Regulation and Expression' (BS31006)
  • Academic Lead on UG Level 3 Module 'Molecular Biochemistry' (Practical project) (BS32011)
  • Module Manager for UG Level 2 in ‘Laboratory and Research Skills 2C’ (BS22003)
  • Oversight and contributor to UG Level 2 course Cellular Communication (BS21002)
  • Module Manager for UG Level 1 in ‘Genes and Heredity’ (BS12001)
  • Contributor to UG Level 1 in ‘Evolution of Cells’ (BS11002)


Ray, S., Panova, T., Miller, G., Volkov, A., Porter, A.C.G., Russell, J., Panov, K.I. and Zomerdijk, J.C.B.M. (2013) Topoisomerase IIα promotes activation of RNA polymerase I transcription by facilitating pre-initiation complex formation. Nature Commun. 4, 1598-1609.  view paper

Zomerdijk, J. (2013) Structural biology: Pivotal findings for a transcription machine Nature  EPub  doi:10.1038/nature12700 View Paper

Naidu, S., Friedrich, J.K., Russell, J. and Zomerdijk, J.C.B.M. (2011) TAF1B is a TFIIB-like component of the basal transcription machinery for RNA Polymerase I. Science 333:1640-1642. PMID: 21921199 View Paper

Birch, J.L., Tan, B.C., Panov, K.I., Panova, T.B., Andersen, J.S., Owen-Hughes, T.A., Russell, J., Lee, S.C. and Zomerdijk, J.C. (2009) FACT facilitates chromatin transcription by RNA polymerases I and III. EMBO J. 28(7):854-65. PMID: 19214185  View Paper

Gorski, J.J., Pathak, S., Panov, K., Kasciukovic, T., Panova, T., Russell, J. and Zomerdijk, J.C.B.M. (2007) A novel TBP-associated factor of SL1 functions in RNA polymerase I transcription. EMBO J. 26:1560-1568. PMID: 17318177 View Paper

Panov, K.I., Friedrich, J.K., Russell, J. and Zomerdijk, J.C. (2006) UBF activates RNA polymerase I transcription by stimulating promoter escape.EMBO J. 25:3310-3322. PMID: 16858408   View Paper

Panov, K.I., Panova, T.B., Gadal, O., Nishiyama, K., Saito, T., Russell, J. and Zomerdijk, J.C. (2006) RNA polymerase I-specific subunit CAST/hPAF49 has a role in the activation of transcription by upstream binding factor. Mol Cell Biol. 26:5436-5448. PMID: 16809778  View Paper

Friedrich, J.K., Panov, K.I., Cabart, P., Russell, J. and Zomerdijk, J.C.B.M. (2005). TBP-TAF complex SL1 directs RNA Polymerase I PIC formation and stabilises UBF at the rDNA promoter. J Biol  Chem, 280: 29551-29558.  view paper

Russell, J. and Zomerdijk, J.C. (2005) RNA-polymerase-I-directed rDNA transcription, life and works. Trends Biochem Sci. 30:87-96. PMID: 15691654 View Paper

Miller, G., Panov, K.I., Friedrich, J.K., Trinkle-Mulcahy, L., Lamond, A.I., and Zomerdijk, J.C.B.M. (2001) hRRN3 is essential in the SL1 mediated recruitment of RNA Polymerase I to rRNA gene promoters. EMBO J. 20, 1373-1382.  view paper