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Journal Article

Pause & go: from the discovery of RNA polymerase pausing to its functional implications


Mayer,  Andreas
Nascent Transcription and Cell Differentiation (Andreas Mayer), Independent Junior Research Groups (OWL), Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics, Max Planck Society;
Department of Genetics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, United States;

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Mayer, A., Landry, H. M., & Churchman, L. S. (2017). Pause & go: from the discovery of RNA polymerase pausing to its functional implications. Current Opinion in Cell Biology, 46, 72-80. doi:10.1016/j.ceb.2017.03.002.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0006-6111-9
The synthesis of nascent RNA is a discontinuous process in which phases of productive elongation by RNA polymerase are interrupted by frequent pauses. Transcriptional pausing was first observed decades ago, but was long considered to be a special feature of transcription at certain genes. This view was challenged when studies using genome-wide approaches revealed that RNA polymerase II pauses at promoter-proximal regions in large sets of genes in Drosophila and mammalian cells. High-resolution genomic methods uncovered that pausing is not restricted to promoters, but occurs globally throughout gene-body regions, implying the existence of key-rate limiting steps in nascent RNA synthesis downstream of transcription initiation. Here, we outline the experimental breakthroughs that led to the discovery of pervasive transcriptional pausing, discuss its emerging roles and regulation, and highlight the importance of pausing in human development and disease.