SINE transcription by RNA polymerase III is suppressed by histone methylation but not by DNA methylation

Dhaval Varshney (Lead / Corresponding author), Jana Vavrova-Anderson, Andrew J. Oler, Victoria H. Cowling, Bradley R. Cairns, Robert J. White (Lead / Corresponding author)

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    38 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Short interspersed nuclear elements (SINEs), such as Alu, spread by retrotransposition, which requires their transcripts to be copied into DNA and then inserted into new chromosomal sites. This can lead to genetic damage through insertional mutagenesis and chromosomal rearrangements between non-allelic SINEs at distinct loci. SINE DNA is heavily methylated and this was thought to suppress its accessibility and transcription, thereby protecting against retrotransposition. Here we provide several lines of evidence that methylated SINE DNA is occupied by RNA polymerase III, including the use of high-throughput bisulphite sequencing of ChIP DNA. We find that loss of DNA methylation has little effect on accessibility of SINEs to transcription machinery or their expression in vivo. In contrast, a histone methyltransferase inhibitor selectively promotes SINE expression and occupancy by RNA polymerase III. The data suggest that methylation of histones rather than DNA plays a dominant role in suppressing SINE transcription.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number6569
    Number of pages12
    JournalNature Communications
    Volume6
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 23 Mar 2015

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