Epigenetic regulation of RNA polymerase III transcription in early breast tumorigenesis

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Abstract

RNA polymerase III (Pol III) transcribes medium-sized non-coding RNAs (collectively termed Pol III genes). Emerging diverse roles of Pol III genes suggest that individual Pol III genes are exquisitely regulated by transcription and epigenetic factors. Here we report global Pol III expression/methylation profiles and molecular mechanisms of Pol III regulation that have not been as extensively studied, using nc886 as a representative Pol III gene. In a human mammary epithelial cell system that recapitulates early breast tumorigenesis, the fraction of actively transcribed Pol III genes increases reaching a plateau during immortalization. Hypermethylation of Pol III genes inhibits Pol III binding to DNA via inducing repressed chromatin and is a determinant for the Pol III repertoire. When Pol III genes are hypo-methylated, MYC amplifies their transcription, regardless of its recognition DNA motif. Thus, Pol III expression during tumorigenesis is delineated by methylation and magnified by MYC.

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