Treatment of HeLa cells with a DNA topoisomerase I-specific inhibitor, camptothecin, results in rapid cessation of the synthesis of the 45S rRNA precursor. The inhibition of rRNA synthesis is reversible following drug removal and correlates with the presence of camptothecin-trapped topoisomerase I-DNA abortive complexes, which can be detected as topoisomerase I-linked DNA breaks upon lysis with sodium dodecyl sulfate. These breaks were found to be concentrated within the transcribed region of human rRNA genes. No such sites can be detected in the inactive human rRNA genes in mouse-human hybrid cells, suggesting a preferential association of topoisomerase I with actively transcribed genes. The distribution of RNA polymerase molecules along the transcription unit of human rRNA genes in camptothecin-treated HeLa cells, as assayed by nuclear run-on transcription, shows a graded decrease of the RNA polymerase density toward the 3' end of the transcription unit; the density is minimally affected near the 5' start of the transcription unit. These results suggest that DNA topoisomerase I is normally involved in the elongation step of transcription, especially when the transcripts are long, and that camptothecin interferes with this role.
|Number of pages
|Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
|Published - Feb 1988
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