The control of promoter-proximal pausing and the release of RNA polymerase II (Pol II) is a widely used mechanism for regulating gene expression in metazoans, especially for genes that respond to environmental and developmental cues. Here, we identify that Pol-II-associated factor 1 (PAF1) possesses an evolutionarily conserved function in metazoans in the regulation of promoter-proximal pausing. Reduction in PAF1 levels leads to an increased release of paused Pol II into gene bodies at thousands of genes. PAF1 depletion results in increased nascent and mature transcripts and increased levels of phosphorylation of Pol II's C-terminal domain on serine 2 (Ser2P). These changes can be explained by the recruitment of the Ser2P kinase super elongation complex (SEC) effecting increased release of paused Pol II into productive elongation, thus establishing PAF1 as a regulator of promoter-proximal pausing by Pol II.
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