Transcription factor trapping by RNA in gene regulatory elements

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Science  20 Nov 2015:
Vol. 350, Issue 6263, pp. 978-981
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad3346

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Noncoding RNA helps protein binding

Besides reading the coding regions of genes, RNA polymerase generates RNA at promoter-proximal and -distal DNA elements, but the function of these molecules is largely unknown. Sigova et al. show that these RNAs facilitate interactions between gene regulators and the regulatory elements they occupy. Nascent RNA associates with the transcription factor YY1 and increases its ability to bind DNA. Thus, transcription at active regulatory elements may provide a positive feedback loop that reinforces regulatory elements contributing to the stability of gene expression programs.

Science, this issue p. 978


Transcription factors (TFs) bind specific sequences in promoter-proximal and -distal DNA elements to regulate gene transcription. RNA is transcribed from both of these DNA elements, and some DNA binding TFs bind RNA. Hence, RNA transcribed from regulatory elements may contribute to stable TF occupancy at these sites. We show that the ubiquitously expressed TF Yin-Yang 1 (YY1) binds to both gene regulatory elements and their associated RNA species across the entire genome. Reduced transcription of regulatory elements diminishes YY1 occupancy, whereas artificial tethering of RNA enhances YY1 occupancy at these elements. We propose that RNA makes a modest but important contribution to the maintenance of certain TFs at gene regulatory elements and suggest that transcription of regulatory elements produces a positive-feedback loop that contributes to the stability of gene expression programs.

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