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EMBO J. 2001 Feb 1;20(3):520-31.

RNA polymerase III and RNA polymerase II promoter complexes are heterochromatin barriers in Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

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Unit on Chromatin and Transcription, NICHD/NIH, Bldg 18T, Room 106, 18 Library Drive, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


The chromosomes of eukaryotes are organized into structurally and functionally discrete domains. Several DNA elements have been identified that act to separate these chromatin domains. We report a detailed characterization of one of these elements, identifying it as a unique tRNA gene possessing the ability to block the spread of silent chromatin in Saccharomyces cerevisiae efficiently. Transcriptional potential of the tRNA gene is critical for barrier activity, as mutations in the tRNA promoter elements, or in extragenic loci that inhibit RNA polymerase III complex assembly, reduce barrier activity. Also, we have reconstituted the Drosophila gypsy element as a heterochromatin barrier in yeast, and have identified other yeast sequences, including the CHA1 upstream activating sequence, that function as barrier elements. Extragenic mutations in the acetyltransferase genes SAS2 and GCN5 also reduce tRNA barrier activity, and tethering of a GAL4/SAS2 fusion creates a robust barrier. We propose that silencing mediated by the Sir proteins competes with barrier element-associated chromatin remodeling activity.

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