The extent of cyclin C promoter occupancy directs changes in stress-dependent transcription

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The Cdk8 kinase module (CKM) is a detachable Mediator subunit composed of cyclin C and one each of paralogs Cdk8/ Cdk19, Med12/Med12L, and Med13/Med13L. Our previous RNA-Seq studies demonstrated that cyclin C represses a subset of hydrogen peroxide-induced genes under normal conditions but is involved in activating other loci following stress. Here, we show that cyclin C directs this transcriptional reprograming through changes in its promoter occupancy. Following peroxide stress, cyclin C promoter occupancy increased for genes it activates while decreasing at loci it represses under normal conditions. Promoter occupancy of otherCKMcomponents generally mirrored cyclin C, indicating that the CKM moves as a single unit. It has previously been shown that some cyclin C leaves the nucleus following cytotoxic stress to induce mitochondrial fragmentation and apoptosis. We observed that CKM integrity appeared compromised at a subset of repressed promoters, suggesting a source of cyclin C that is targeted for nuclear release. Interestingly, mTOR inhibition induced a new pattern of cyclin C promoter occupancy indicating that this control is fine-tuned to the individual stress. Using inhibitors, we found that Cdk8 kinase activity is not required for CKM movement or repression but was necessary for full gene activation. In conclusion, this study revealed that different stress stimuli elicit specific changes in CKM promoter occupancy correlating to altered transcriptional outputs. Finally, although CKM components were recruited or expelled from promoters as a unit, heterogeneity was observed at individual promoters, suggesting a mechanism to generate gene- and stress-specific responses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16280-16291
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number48
StatePublished - Nov 27 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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