Xrn2 accelerates termination by RNA polymerase II, which is underpinned by CPSF73 activity


Termination is a ubiquitous phase in every transcription cycle but is incompletely understood and a subject of debate. We used gene editing as a new approach to address its mechanism through engineered conditional depletion of the 5' → 3' exonuclease Xrn2 or the polyadenylation signal (PAS) endonuclease CPSF73 (cleavage and polyadenylation specificity factor 73). The ability to rapidly control Xrn2 reveals a clear and general role for it in cotranscriptional degradation of 3' flanking region RNA and transcriptional termination. This defect is characterized genome-wide at high resolution using mammalian native elongating transcript sequencing (mNET-seq). An Xrn2 effect on termination requires prior RNA cleavage, and we provide evidence for this by showing that catalytically inactive CPSF73 cannot restore termination to cells lacking functional CPSF73. Notably, Xrn2 plays no significant role in either Histone or small nuclear RNA (snRNA) gene termination even though both RNA classes undergo 3' end cleavage. In sum, efficient termination on most protein-coding genes involves CPSF73-mediated RNA cleavage and cotranscriptional degradation of polymerase-associated RNA by Xrn2. However, as CPSF73 loss caused more extensive readthrough transcription than Xrn2 elimination, it likely plays a more underpinning role in termination.

Journal details

Volume 32
Issue number 2
Pages 127-139
Publication date


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