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The classification of mRNA expression levels by the phosphorylation state of RNAPII CTD based on a combined genome-wide approach

Jun Odawara12, Akihito Harada1, Tomohiko Yoshimi3, Kazumitsu Maehara1, Taro Tachibana3, Seiji Okada1, Koichi Akashi2 and Yasuyuki Ohkawa1*

Author affiliations

1 Faculty of Medicine Div. Epigenetics, Kyushu University, Fukuoka 812-8582, Japan

2 Department of Medicine and Biosystemic Sciences, Kyushu University Graduate School of Medicine, Fukuoka 812-8582, Japan

3 Department of Bioengineering, Graduate School of Engineering, Osaka City University, Osaka 558-8585, Japan

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Citation and License

BMC Genomics 2011, 12:516  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-12-516

Published: 20 October 2011



Cellular function is regulated by the balance of stringently regulated amounts of mRNA. Previous reports revealed that RNA polymerase II (RNAPII), which transcribes mRNA, can be classified into the pausing state and the active transcription state according to the phosphorylation state of RPB1, the catalytic subunit of RNAPII. However, genome-wide association between mRNA expression level and the phosphorylation state of RNAPII is unclear. While the functional importance of pausing genes is clear, such as in mouse Embryonic Stem cells for differentiation, understanding this association is critical for distinguishing pausing genes from active transcribing genes in expression profiling data, such as microarrays and RNAseq. Therefore, we examined the correlation between the phosphorylation of RNAPII and mRNA expression levels using a combined analysis by ChIPseq and RNAseq.


We first performed a precise quantitative measurement of mRNA by performing an optimized calculation in RNAseq. We then visualized the recruitment of various phosphorylated RNAPIIs, such as Ser2P and Ser5P. A combined analysis using optimized RNAseq and ChIPseq for phosphorylated RNAPII revealed that mRNA levels correlate with the various phosphorylation states of RNAPII.


We demonstrated that the amount of mRNA is precisely reflected by the phased phosphorylation of Ser2 and Ser5. In particular, even the most "pausing" genes, for which only Ser5 is phosphorylated, were detectable at a certain level of mRNA. Our analysis indicated that the complexity of quantitative regulation of mRNA levels could be classified into three categories according to the phosphorylation state of RNAPII.