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Eukaryot Cell. 2010 Feb;9(2):325-35. doi: 10.1128/EC.00280-09. Epub 2009 Dec 28.

RNA polymerase I transcription silences noncoding RNAs at the ribosomal DNA locus in Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

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Dipartimento di Genetica e Biologia Molecolare, Università di Roma, Sapienza, 00185 Rome, Italy.


In Saccharomyces cerevisiae the repeated units of the ribosomal locus, transcribed by RNA polymerase I (Pol I), are interrupted by nontranscribed spacers (NTSs). These NTS regions are transcribed by RNA polymerase III to synthesize 5S RNA and by RNA polymerase II (Pol II) to synthesize, at low levels, noncoding RNAs (ncRNAs). While transcription of both RNA polymerase I and III is highly characterized, at the ribosomal DNA (rDNA) locus only a few studies have been performed on Pol II, whose repression correlates with the SIR2-dependent silencing. The involvement of both chromatin organization and Pol I transcription has been proposed, and peculiar chromatin structures might justify "ribosomal" Pol II silencing. Reporter genes inserted within the rDNA units have been employed for these studies. We studied, in the natural context, yeast mutants differing in Pol I transcription in order to find whether correlations exist between Pol I transcription and Pol II ncRNA production. Here, we demonstrate that silencing at the rDNA locus represses ncRNAs with a strength inversely proportional to Pol I transcription. Moreover, localized regions of histone hyperacetylation appear in cryptic promoter elements when Pol II is active and in the coding region when Pol I is functional; in addition, DNA topoisomerase I site-specific activity follows RNA polymerase I transcription. The repression of ncRNAs at the rDNA locus, in response to RNA polymerase I transcription, could represent a physiological circuit control whose mechanism involves modification of histone acetylation.

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