A novel role for the Pol I transcription factor UBTF in maintaining genome stability through the regulation of highly transcribed Pol II genes

Elaine Sanij, Jeannine Diesch, Analia Lesmana, Gretchen Poortinga, Nadine Hein, Grace Lidgerwood, Donald P Cameron, Jason Ellul, Gregory J Goodall, Lee H Wong, Amardeep S Dhillon, Nourdine Hamdane, Lawrence I Rothblum, Richard B Pearson, Izhak Haviv, Thomas Moss, Ross D Hannan

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26 Citations (Scopus)


Mechanisms to coordinate programs of highly transcribed genes required for cellular homeostasis and growth are unclear. Upstream binding transcription factor 1 (UBTF, also called UBF) is thought to function exclusively in RNA polymerase I (Pol I)-specific transcription of the ribosomal genes. Here we report that, the two isoforms of UBTF (UBTF1/2) are also enriched at highly expressed Pol II-transcribed genes throughout the mouse genome. Further analysis of UBTF1/2 DNA binding in immortalised human epithelial cells and their isogenically matched transformed counterparts reveals an additional repertoire of UBTF1/2-bound genes involved in the regulation of cell cycle checkpoints and DNA damage response. As proof of a functional role for UBTF1/2 in regulating Pol II transcription, we demonstrate that UBTF1/2 is required for recruiting Pol II to the highly transcribed histone gene clusters and for their optimal expression. Intriguingly, lack of UBTF1/2 does not affect chromatin marks or nucleosome density at histone genes. Instead it results in increased accessibility of the histone promoters and transcribed regions to micrococcal nuclease, implicating UBTF1/2 in mediating DNA accessibility. Unexpectedly, UBTF2, which does not function in Pol I transcription, is sufficient to regulate histone gene expression in the absence of UBTF1. Moreover, depletion of UBTF1/2 and subsequent reduction in histone gene expression is associated with DNA damage and genomic instability independent of Pol I transcription. Thus, we have uncovered a novel role for UBTF1 and UBTF2 in maintaining genome stability through coordinating the expression of highly transcribed Pol I (UBTF1 activity) and Pol II genes (UBTF2 activity).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)201 - 212
Number of pages12
JournalGenome Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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