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J Mol Biol. 1998 Jul 31;280(5):785-98.

Regulation of c-fos expression by RNA polymerase elongation competence.

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Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research (ISREC), Chemin des Boveresses 155, Epalinges, CH-1066, Switzerland.


The molecular mechanisms underlying transcription elongation and their role in gene regulation are poorly characterized in eukaryotes. A number of genes, however, have been proposed to be regulated at the level of transcription elongation, including c-myc, c-fos and c-myb. Here, we analyze the control of transcription elongation at the mouse c-fos gene at the nucleotide level in intact cells. We find that RNA polymerases are engaged in the promoter-proximal part of the gene in the absence of gene activation signals and mRNA synthesis. Importantly, we determine that the engaged RNA polymerases originate from a continuous initiation of transcription which, in the absence of gene activation signals, terminate close to the promoter. We also observe that the c-fos gene presents an active chromatin conformation, with the promoter and upstream regulatory sequences constitutively occupied by proteins, accounting for the continuous initiation of RNA polymerase complexes. We propose that activation of c-fos gene expression results primarily from the assembly of elongation-competent RNA polymerases that can transcribe the complete gene. Our results suggest that the engaged RNA polymerases found downstream of a number of other eukaryotic promoters may be associated with transcription termination of elongation-incompetent polymerases in the absence of activating signals.

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