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Mol Cell. 2013 Nov 21;52(4):517-28. doi: 10.1016/j.molcel.2013.10.001. Epub 2013 Oct 31.

Stable pausing by RNA polymerase II provides an opportunity to target and integrate regulatory signals.

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Laboratory of Molecular Carcinogenesis, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Institutes of Health, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709, USA.


Metazoan gene expression is often regulated after the recruitment of RNA polymerase II (Pol II) to promoters, through the controlled release of promoter-proximally paused Pol II into productive RNA synthesis. Despite the prevalence of paused Pol II, very little is known about the dynamics of these early elongation complexes or the fate of the short transcription start site-associated (tss) RNAs they produce. Here, we demonstrate that paused elongation complexes can be remarkably stable, with half-lives exceeding 15 min at genes with inefficient pause release. Promoter-proximal termination by Pol II is infrequent, and released tssRNAs are targeted for rapid degradation. Further, we provide evidence that the predominant tssRNA species observed are nascent RNAs held within early elongation complexes. We propose that stable pausing of polymerase provides a temporal window of opportunity for recruitment of factors to modulate gene expression and that the nascent tssRNA represents an appealing target for these interactions.

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