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Nucleic Acids Res. 2011 Sep 1;39(16):7179-93. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkr370. Epub 2011 May 19.

PROMoter uPstream Transcripts share characteristics with mRNAs and are produced upstream of all three major types of mammalian promoters.

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Department of Molecular Biology, Centre for mRNP Biogenesis and Metabolism, Aarhus University, C.F. Møllers Allé, Building 1130, 8000 Aarhus, Denmark.


PROMoter uPstream Transcripts (PROMPTs) were identified as a new class of human RNAs, which are heterologous in length and produced only upstream of the promoters of active protein-coding genes. Here, we show that PROMPTs carry 3'-adenosine tails and 5'-cap structures. However, unlike mRNAs, PROMPTs are largely nuclear and rapidly turned over by the RNA exosome. PROMPT-transcribing DNA is occupied by RNA polymerase II (RNAPII) complexes with serine 2 phosphorylated C-terminal domains (CTDs), mimicking that of the associated genic region. Thus, the inefficient elongation capacity of PROMPT transcription cannot solely be assigned to poor CTD phosphorylation. Conditions that reduce gene transcription increase RNAPII occupancy of the upstream PROMPT region, suggesting that they reside in a common transcription compartment. Surprisingly, gene promoters that are actively transcribed by RNAPI or RNAPIII also produce PROMPTs that are targeted by the exosome. RNAPIII PROMPTs bear hallmarks of RNAPII promoter-associated RNAs, explaining the physical presence of RNAPII upstream of many RNAPIII-transcribed genes. We propose that RNAPII activity upstream gene promoters are wide-spread and integral to the act of gene transcription.

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