Bidirectional cooperation between Ubtf1 and SL1 determines RNA Polymerase I promoter recognition in cell and is negatively affected in the UBTF-E210K neuroregression syndrome
Transcription of the ~200 mouse and human ribosomal RNA genes (rDNA) by RNA Polymerase I (RPI/PolR1) accounts for 80% of total cellular RNA, around 35% of all nuclear RNA synthesis, and determines the cytoplasmic ribosome complement. It is therefore a major factor controlling cell growth and its misfunction has been implicated in hypertrophic and developmental disorders. Activation of each rDNA repeat requires nucleosome replacement by the architectural multi-HMGbox factor UBTF to create a
... nucleosome free region (NFR). Formation of this NFR is also essential for recruitment of the TBP-TAF I factor SL1 and for preinitiation complex (PIC) formation at the gene and enhancer-associated promoters of the rDNA. However, these promoters show little sequence commonality and neither UBTF nor SL1 display significant DNA sequence binding specificity, making what drives PIC formation a mystery. Here we show that cooperation between SL1 and the longer UBTF1 splice variant generates the specificity required for rDNA promoter recognition in cell . We find that conditional deletion of the Taf1b subunit of SL1 causes a striking depletion UBTF at both rDNA promoters but not elsewhere across the rDNA. We also find that while both UBTF1 and -2 variants bind throughout the rDNA NFR, only UBTF1 is present with SL1 at the promoters. The data strongly suggest an induced-fit model of RPI promoter recognition in which UBTF1 plays an architectural role. Interestingly, a recurrent UBTF-E210K mutation and the cause of a pediatric neurodegeneration syndrome provides indirect support for this model. E210K knock-in cells show enhanced levels of the UBTF1 splice variant and a concomitant increase in active rDNA copies. In contrast, they also display reduced rDNA transcription and promoter recruitment of SL1. We suggest the underlying cause of the UBTF-E210K syndrome is therefore a reduction in cooperative UBTF1-SL1 promoter recruitment that may be partially compensated by enhanced rDNA activation.