Analysis of RNA Polymerase II Chromatin Binding by Flow Cytometry

Bio Protoc. 2023 Apr 20;13(8):e4659. doi: 10.21769/BioProtoc.4659.


RNA polymerase II (RNAPII) transcribes DNA into mRNA and thereby plays a critical role in cellular protein production. In addition, RNAPII plays a central role in DNA damage responses. Measurements of RNAPII on chromatin may thus give insight into several essential processes in eukaryotic cells. During transcription, the C-terminal domain of RNAPII becomes post-translationally modified, and phosphorylation on serine 5 and serine 2 can be used as markers for the promoter proximal and productively elongating forms of RNAPII, respectively. Here, we provide a detailed protocol for the detection of chromatin-bound RNAPII and its serine 5- and serine 2-phosphorylated forms in individual human cells through the cell cycle. We have recently shown that this method can be used to study the effects of ultraviolet DNA damage on RNAPII chromatin binding and that it can even be used to reveal new knowledge about the transcription cycle itself. Other commonly used methods to study RNAPII chromatin binding include chromatin immunoprecipitation followed by sequencing or chromatin fractionation followed by western blotting. However, such methods are frequently based on lysates made from a large number of cells, which may mask population heterogeneity, e.g., due to cell cycle phase. With strengths such as single-cell analysis, speed of use, and accurate quantitative readouts, we envision that our flow cytometry method can be widely used as a complementary approach to sequencing-based methods to study effects of different stimuli and inhibitors on RNAPII-mediated transcription. Graphical overview.

Keywords: Barcoding; Cell cycle; Extraction; Flow cytometry; Multiplexing; RNA polymerase II; RNAPII; Transcription.