RNA polymerase II (RNAPII) is emerging as an important factor in DNA damage responses, but how it responds to genotoxic stress is not fully understood. We have developed a rapid and sensitive flow cytometry method to study chromatin binding of RNAPII in individual human cells through the cell cycle. Indicating enhanced transcription initiation at early timepoints, levels of RNAPII were increased at 15-30min after UV-induced DNA damage. This was particularly evident for the S5 phosphorylated form of RNAPII (pRNAPII S5), which is typically associated with promoter proximal pausing. Furthermore, degradation of pRNAPII S5 frequently occurs, as its levels on chromatin were strongly enhanced by the proteasome inhibitor MG132 with and without UV. Remarkably, inhibiting pause release with 5,6-dichloro-1-beta-ribo-furanosyl benzimidazole (DRB) further promoted UV-induced degradation of pRNAPII S5, suggesting enhanced initiation may lead to a phenomenon of 'promoter proximal crowding' resulting in premature termination via degradation of RNAPII. Moreover, pRNAPII S2 levels on chromatin were more stable in S phase of the cell cycle 2h after UV, indicating cell cycle specific effects. Altogether our results demonstrate a useful new method and suggest that degradation of promoter proximal RNAPII plays an unanticipated large role both during normal transcription and after UV.
© The Author(s) 2022. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Nucleic Acids Research.