Repression of pervasive antisense transcription is the primary role of fission yeast RNA polymerase II CTD serine 2 phosphorylation

Nucleic Acids Res. 2024 May 27:gkae436. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkae436. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

The RNA polymerase II carboxy-terminal domain (CTD) consists of conserved heptapeptide repeats that can be phosphorylated to influence distinct stages of the transcription cycle, including RNA processing. Although CTD-associated proteins have been identified, phospho-dependent CTD interactions have remained elusive. Proximity-dependent biotinylation (PDB) has recently emerged as an alternative approach to identify protein-protein associations in the native cellular environment. In this study, we present a PDB-based map of the fission yeast RNAPII CTD interactome in living cells and identify phospho-dependent CTD interactions by using a mutant in which Ser2 was replaced by alanine in every repeat of the fission yeast CTD. This approach revealed that CTD Ser2 phosphorylation is critical for the association between RNAPII and the histone methyltransferase Set2 during transcription elongation, but is not required for 3' end processing and transcription termination. Accordingly, loss of CTD Ser2 phosphorylation causes a global increase in antisense transcription, correlating with elevated histone acetylation in gene bodies. Our findings reveal that the fundamental role of CTD Ser2 phosphorylation is to establish a chromatin-based repressive state that prevents cryptic intragenic transcription initiation.