Methylation of RNA polymerase II non-consensus Lysine residues marks early transcription in mammalian cells


  • J.D. Dias
  • T. Rito
  • E. Torlai Triglia
  • A. Kukalev
  • C. Ferrai
  • M. Chotalia
  • E. Brookes
  • H. Kimura
  • A. Pombo


  • eLife


  • eLife 4: e11215


  • Dynamic post-translational modification of RNA polymerase II (RNAPII) coordinates the co-transcriptional recruitment of enzymatic complexes that regulate chromatin states and processing of nascent RNA. Extensive phosphorylation of serine residues at the largest RNAPII subunit occurs at its structurally-disordered C-terminal domain (CTD), which is composed of multiple heptapeptide repeats with consensus sequence Y1-S2-P3-T4-S5-P6-S7. Serine-5 and Serine-7 phosphorylation mark transcription initiation, whereas Serine-2 phosphorylation coincides with productive elongation. In vertebrates, the CTD has eight non-canonical substitutions of Serine-7 into Lysine-7, which can be acetylated (K7ac). Here, we describe mono- and di-methylation of CTD Lysine-7 residues (K7me1 and K7me2). K7me1 and K7me2 are observed during the earliest transcription stages and precede or accompany Serine-5 and Serine-7 phosphorylation. In contrast, K7ac is associated with RNAPII elongation, Serine-2 phosphorylation and mRNA expression. We identify an unexpected balance between RNAPII K7 methylation and acetylation at gene promoters, which fine-tunes gene expression levels.