An attractive approach to reduce gene expression is via the use of antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs) that harness the RNase H1 mechanism. Here we show that RNase H ASOs targeted to introns or exons robustly reduce the level of spliced RNA associated with chromatin. Surprisingly, intron-targeted ASOs reduce the level of pre-mRNA associated with chromatin to a greater extent than exon-targeted ASOs. This indicates that exon-targeted ASOs achieve full activity after the pre-mRNA has undergone splicing, but before the mRNA is released from chromatin. Even though RNase H ASOs can reduce the level of RNA associated with chromatin, the effect of ASO-directed RNA degradation on transcription has never been documented. Here we show that intron-targeted ASOs and, to a lesser extent, exon-targeted ASOs cause RNA polymerase II (Pol II) transcription termination in cultured cells and mice. Furthermore, ASO-directed transcription termination is mediated by the nuclear exonuclease XRN2.
Keywords: ASO; RNase H; XRN2; chromatin; torpedo.
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