Control of Gene Expression in Senescence through Transcriptional Read-Through of Convergent Protein-Coding Genes

Cell Rep. 2017 Nov 28;21(9):2433-2446. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2017.11.006.


Antisense RNAs are non-coding RNAs that can regulate their corresponding sense RNAs and are generally produced from specific promoters. We uncover here a family of antisense RNAs, named START RNAs, produced during cellular senescence by transcriptional read-through at convergent protein-coding genes. Importantly, START RNAs repress the expression of their corresponding sense RNAs. In proliferative cells, we found that the Pol II elongation rate is limited downstream of TTS at START loci, allowing transcription termination to occur before Pol II reaches the convergent genes, thus preventing antisense RNA production and interference with the expression of the convergent genes. START RNAs are repressed by H2A.Z histone variant, whose local occupancy decreases in senescence. Our results thus uncover a mechanism of gene expression regulation relying on read-through antisense transcript production at convergent genes, underlining the functional importance of chromatin regulation in the control of RNA pol II elongation rate at intergenic regions.

Keywords: H2A.Z histone variant; RNA polymerase II elongation rate; antisense RNAs; cellular senescence; convergent genes; non-coding RNAs; read-through transcription.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line
  • Cellular Senescence / genetics
  • Cellular Senescence / physiology
  • Chromatin / genetics
  • Chromatin / metabolism*
  • Computational Biology
  • Gene Expression Regulation / genetics
  • Humans
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic / genetics
  • RNA Polymerase II / genetics
  • RNA Polymerase II / metabolism
  • RNA, Antisense / genetics
  • RNA, Antisense / metabolism
  • Transcription, Genetic / genetics*


  • Chromatin
  • RNA, Antisense
  • RNA Polymerase II