Pausing sites of RNA polymerase II on actively transcribed genes are enriched in DNA double-stranded breaks

Sandeep Singh, Karol Szlachta, Arkadi Manukyan, Heather M. Raimer, Manikarna Dinda, Stefan Bekiranov, Yuh Hwa Wang, Patrick Sung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


DNA double-stranded breaks (DSBs) are strongly associated with active transcription, and promoter-proximal pausing of RNA polymerase II (Pol II) is a critical step in transcriptional regulation. Mapping the distribution of DSBs along actively expressed genes and identifying the location of DSBs relative to pausing sites can provide mechanistic insights into transcriptional regulation. Using genome-wide DNA break mapping/sequencing techniques at single-nucleotide resolution in human cells, we found that DSBs are preferentially located around transcription start sites of highly transcribed and paused genes and that Pol II promoter-proximal pausing sites are enriched in DSBs. We observed that DSB frequency at pausing sites increases as the strength of pausing increases, regardless of whether the pausing sites are near or far from annotated transcription start sites. Inhibition of topoisomerase I and II by camptothecin and etoposide treatment, respectively, increased DSBs at the pausing sites as the concentrations of drugs increased, demonstrating the involvement of topoisomerases in DSB generation at the pausing sites. DNA breaks generated by topoisomerases are short-lived because of the religation activity of these enzymes, which these drugs inhibit; therefore, the observation of increased DSBs with increasing drug doses at pausing sites indicated active recruitment of topoisomerases to these sites. Furthermore, the enrichment and locations of DSBs at pausing sites were shared among different cell types, suggesting that Pol II promoter-proximal pausing is a common regulatory mechanism. Our findings support a model in which topoisomerases participate in Pol II promoter-proximal pausing and indicated that DSBs at pausing sites contribute to transcriptional activation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3990-4000
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number12
StatePublished - Mar 20 2020
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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