An antisense RNA-mediated mechanism eliminates a meiosis-specific copper-regulated transcript in mitotic cells. [Gene Regulation]

July 30th, 2015 by Normant, V., Beaudoin, J., Labbe, S.

Sense and antisense transcripts produced from convergent gene pairs could interfere with the expression of either partner gene. In Schizosaccharomyces pombe, we found that the iss1+ gene produces two transcript isoforms, including a long antisense mRNA that is complementary to the meiotic cum1+ sense transcript, inhibiting cum1+ expression in vegetative cells. Inhibition of cum1+ transcription was not at the level of its initiation because fusion of the cum1+ promoter to the lacZ gene showed that activation of the reporter gene occurs in response to low copper conditions. Further analysis showed that the transcription factor Cuf1 and conserved copper-signaling elements (CuSEs) are required for induction of cum1+-lacZ transcription under copper deficiency. Insertion of a multipartite polyadenylation signal immediately downstream of iss1+ led to the exclusive production of a shorter iss1+ mRNA isoform, thereby allowing accumulation of cum1+ sense mRNA in copper-limited vegetative cells. This finding suggested that the long iss1+ antisense mRNA could pair with cum1+ sense mRNA, thereby producing double-stranded RNA molecules, which could induce RNAi. We consistently found that mutant strains for RNAi (dcr1-, ago1-, rdp1-, and clr4-) are defective in selectively eliminating cum1+ sense transcript in the G1 phase of the cell cycle. Taken together, these results describe the first example of a copper-regulated meiotic gene represses by an antisense transcription mechanism in vegetative cells.