Gene loops enhance transcriptional directionality.
Tan-Wong, S.M., Zaugg, J.B., Camblong, J., Xu, Z., Zhang, D.W., Mischo, H.E., Ansari, A.Z., Luscombe, N.M., Steinmetz, L.M. & Proudfoot, N.J.
Science. 2012 Nov 2;338(6107):671-5. doi: 10.1126/science.1224350. Epub 2012 Sep27.
Eukaryotic genomes are extensively transcribed, forming both messenger RNAs (mRNAs) and noncoding RNAs (ncRNAs). ncRNAs made by RNA polymerase II often initiate from bidirectional promoters (nucleosome-depleted chromatin) that synthesize mRNA and ncRNA in opposite directions. We demonstrate that, by adopting a gene-loop conformation, actively transcribed mRNA encoding genes restrict divergent transcription of ncRNAs. Because gene-loop formation depends on a protein factor (Ssu72) that coassociates with both the promoter and the terminator, the inactivation of Ssu72 leads to increased synthesis of promoter-associated divergent ncRNAs, referred to as Ssu72-restricted transcripts (SRTs). Similarly, inactivation of individual gene loops by gene mutation enhances SRT synthesis. We demonstrate that gene-loop conformation enforces transcriptional directionality on otherwise bidirectional promoters.
Dissecting the genetic basis of resistance to malaria parasites in Anopheles gambiae.
Blandin, S.A., Wang-Sattler, R., Lamacchia, M., Gagneur, J., Lycett, G., Ning, Y., Levashina, E.A. & Steinmetz, L.M.
Science. 2009 Oct 2;326(5949):147-50.
The ability of Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes to transmit Plasmodium parasites is highly variable between individuals. However, the genetic basis of this variability has remained unknown. We combined genome-wide mapping and reciprocal allele-specific RNA interference (rasRNAi) to identify the genomic locus that confers resistance to malaria parasites and demonstrated that polymorphisms in a single gene encoding the antiparasitic thioester-containing protein 1 (TEP1) explain a substantial part of the variability in parasite killing. The link between TEP1 alleles and resistance to malaria may offer new tools for controlling malaria transmission. The successful application of rasRNAi in Anopheles suggests that it could also be applied to other organisms where RNAi is feasible to dissect complex phenotypes to the level of individual quantitative trait alleles.
Bidirectional promoters generate pervasive transcription in yeast.
Xu, Z., Wei, W., Gagneur, J., Perocchi, F., Clauder-Munster, S., Camblong, J., Guffanti, E., Stutz, F., Huber, W. & Steinmetz, L.M.
Nature. 2009 Feb 19;457(7232):1033-7. Epub 2009 Jan 25.
Genome-wide pervasive transcription has been reported in many eukaryotic organisms, revealing a highly interleaved transcriptome organization that involves hundreds of previously unknown non-coding RNAs. These recently identified transcripts either exist stably in cells (stable unannotated transcripts, SUTs) or are rapidly degraded by the RNA surveillance pathway (cryptic unstable transcripts, CUTs). One characteristic of pervasive transcription is the extensive overlap of SUTs and CUTs with previously annotated features, which prompts questions regarding how these transcripts are generated, and whether they exert function. Single-gene studies have shown that transcription of SUTs and CUTs can be functional, through mechanisms involving the generated RNAs or their generation itself. So far, a complete transcriptome architecture including SUTs and CUTs has not been described in any organism. Knowledge about the position and genome-wide arrangement of these transcripts will be instrumental in understanding their function. Here we provide a comprehensive analysis of these transcripts in the context of multiple conditions, a mutant of the exosome machinery and different strain backgrounds of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. We show that both SUTs and CUTs display distinct patterns of distribution at specific locations. Most of the newly identified transcripts initiate from nucleosome-free regions (NFRs) associated with the promoters of other transcripts (mostly protein-coding genes), or from NFRs at the 3' ends of protein-coding genes. Likewise, about half of all coding transcripts initiate from NFRs associated with promoters of other transcripts. These data change our view of how a genome is transcribed, indicating that bidirectionality is an inherent feature of promoters. Such an arrangement of divergent and overlapping transcripts may provide a mechanism for local spreading of regulatory signals-that is, coupling the transcriptional regulation of neighbouring genes by means of transcriptional interference or histone modification.
High-resolution mapping of meiotic crossovers and non-crossovers in yeast.
Mancera, E., Bourgon, R., Brozzi, A., Huber, W. & Steinmetz, L.M.
Nature. 2008 Jul 24;454(7203):479-85. Epub 2008 Jul 9.
Meiotic recombination has a central role in the evolution of sexually reproducing organisms. The two recombination outcomes, crossover and non-crossover, increase genetic diversity, but have the potential to homogenize alleles by gene conversion. Whereas crossover rates vary considerably across the genome, non-crossovers and gene conversions have only been identified in a handful of loci. To examine recombination genome wide and at high spatial resolution, we generated maps of crossovers, crossover-associated gene conversion and non-crossover gene conversion using dense genetic marker data collected from all four products of fifty-six yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) meioses. Our maps reveal differences in the distributions of crossovers and non-crossovers, showing more regions where either crossovers or non-crossovers are favoured than expected by chance. Furthermore, we detect evidence for interference between crossovers and non-crossovers, a phenomenon previously only known to occur between crossovers. Up to 1% of the genome of each meiotic product is subject to gene conversion in a single meiosis, with detectable bias towards GC nucleotides. To our knowledge the maps represent the first high-resolution, genome-wide characterization of the multiple outcomes of recombination in any organism. In addition, because non-crossover hotspots create holes of reduced linkage within haplotype blocks, our results stress the need to incorporate non-crossovers into genetic linkage analysis.
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