Transcription-coupled changes to chromatin underpin gene silencing by transcriptional interference

Nucleic Acids Res. 2016 Dec 15;44(22):10619-10630. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkw801. Epub 2016 Sep 8.


Long non-coding RNA (lncRNA) transcription into a downstream promoter frequently results in transcriptional interference. However, the mechanism of this repression is not fully understood. We recently showed that drug tolerance in fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe is controlled by lncRNA transcription upstream of the tgp1+ permease gene. Here we demonstrate that transcriptional interference of tgp1+ involves several transcription-coupled chromatin changes mediated by conserved elongation factors Set2, Clr6CII, Spt6 and FACT. These factors are known to travel with RNAPII and establish repressive chromatin in order to limit aberrant transcription initiation from cryptic promoters present in gene bodies. We therefore conclude that conserved RNAPII-associated mechanisms exist to both suppress intragenic cryptic promoters during genic transcription and to repress gene promoters by transcriptional interference. Our analyses also demonstrate that key mechanistic features of transcriptional interference are shared between S. pombe and the highly divergent budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae Thus, transcriptional interference is an ancient, conserved mechanism for tightly controlling gene expression. Our mechanistic insights allowed us to predict and validate a second example of transcriptional interference involving the S. pombe pho1+ gene. Given that eukaryotic genomes are pervasively transcribed, transcriptional interference likely represents a more general feature of gene regulation than is currently appreciated.

MeSH terms

  • Acid Phosphatase / genetics
  • Acid Phosphatase / metabolism
  • Chromatin / genetics*
  • Chromatin / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Fungal*
  • Gene Silencing
  • Genes, Fungal
  • Histone-Lysine N-Methyltransferase / genetics*
  • Histone-Lysine N-Methyltransferase / metabolism
  • Histones
  • Methylation
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational
  • Schizosaccharomyces / genetics*
  • Schizosaccharomyces / metabolism
  • Schizosaccharomyces pombe Proteins / genetics*
  • Schizosaccharomyces pombe Proteins / metabolism
  • Transcription, Genetic*


  • Chromatin
  • Histones
  • Schizosaccharomyces pombe Proteins
  • Histone-Lysine N-Methyltransferase
  • Set2 protein, S pombe
  • Acid Phosphatase
  • acid phosphatase Pho1, S pombe