RNA Pol II Dynamics Modulate Co-transcriptional Chromatin Modification, CTD Phosphorylation, and Transcriptional Direction


Eukaryotic genes are marked by conserved post-translational modifications on the RNA pol II C-terminal domain (CTD) and the chromatin template. How the 5’-3’ profiles of these marks are established is poorly understood. Using pol II mutants in human cells, we found that slow transcription repositioned specific co-transcriptionally deposited chromatin modifications; histone H3 lysine 36 trimethyl (H3K36me3) shifted within genes toward 5’ ends, and histone H3 lysine 4 dimethyl (H3K4me2) extended farther upstream of start sites. Slow transcription also evoked a hyperphosphorylation of CTD Ser2 residues at 5’ ends of genes that is conserved in yeast. We propose a “dwell time in the target zone” model to explain the effects of transcriptional dynamics on the establishment of co-transcriptionally deposited protein modifications. Promoter-proximal Ser2 phosphorylation is associated with a longer pol II dwell time at start sites and reduced transcriptional polarity because of strongly enhanced divergent antisense transcription at promoters. These results demonstrate that pol II dynamics help govern the decision between sense and divergent antisense transcription.

Mol. Cell