High-resolution analysis of cell-state transitions in yeast suggests widespread transcriptional tuning by alternative starts.
journal contributionposted on 2021-01-19, 14:41 authored by Minghao Chia, Cai Li, Sueli Marques, Vicente Pelechano, Nicholas M Luscombe, Folkert J van Werven
BACKGROUND: The start and end sites of messenger RNAs (TSSs and TESs) are highly regulated, often in a cell-type-specific manner. Yet the contribution of transcript diversity in regulating gene expression remains largely elusive. We perform an integrative analysis of multiple highly synchronized cell-fate transitions and quantitative genomic techniques in Saccharomyces cerevisiae to identify regulatory functions associated with transcribing alternative isoforms. RESULTS: Cell-fate transitions feature widespread elevated expression of alternative TSS and, to a lesser degree, TES usage. These dynamically regulated alternative TSSs are located mostly upstream of canonical TSSs, but also within gene bodies possibly encoding for protein isoforms. Increased upstream alternative TSS usage is linked to various effects on canonical TSS levels, which range from co-activation to repression. We identified two key features linked to these outcomes: an interplay between alternative and canonical promoter strengths, and distance between alternative and canonical TSSs. These two regulatory properties give a plausible explanation of how locally transcribed alternative TSSs control gene transcription. Additionally, we find that specific chromatin modifiers Set2, Set3, and FACT play an important role in mediating gene repression via alternative TSSs, further supporting that the act of upstream transcription drives the local changes in gene transcription. CONCLUSIONS: The integrative analysis of multiple cell-fate transitions suggests the presence of a regulatory control system of alternative TSSs that is important for dynamic tuning of gene expression. Our work provides a framework for understanding how TSS heterogeneity governs eukaryotic gene expression, particularly during cell-fate changes.