Reasearch Awards nomination

Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Genomics and BioMed Central.

Open Access Research article

The nucleosome regulates the usage of polyadenylation sites in the human genome

Huan Huang, Jiao Chen, Hongde Liu and Xiao Sun*

Author Affiliations

State Key Laboratory of Bioelectronics, School of Biological Science and Medical Engineering, Southeast University, Nanjing 210096, China

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Genomics 2013, 14:912  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-14-912

Published: 23 December 2013



It has been reported that 3' end processing is coupled to transcription and nucleosome depletion near the polyadenylation sites in many species. However, the association between nucleosome occupancy and polyadenylation site usage is still unclear.


By systematic analysis of high-throughput sequencing datasets from the human genome, we found that nucleosome occupancy patterns are different around the polyadenylation sites, and that the patterns associate with both transcription termination and recognition of polyadenylation sites. Upstream of proximal polyadenylation sites, RNA polymerase II accumulated and nucleosomes were better positioned compared with downstream of the sites. Highly used proximal polyadenylation sites had higher upstream nucleosome levels and RNA polymerase II accumulation than lowly used sites. This suggests that nucleosomes positioned upstream of proximal sites function in the recognition of proximal polyadenylation sites and in the preparation for 3' end processing by slowing down transcription speed. Both conserved distal polyadenylation sites and constitutive sites showed stronger nucleosome depletion near polyadenylation sites and had intrinsically better positioned downstream nucleosomes. Finally, there was a higher accumulation of RNA polymerase II downstream of the polyadenylation sites, to guarantee gene transcription termination and recognition of the last polyadenylation sites, if previous sites were missed.


Our study indicates that nucleosome arrays play different roles in the regulation of the usage of polyadenylation sites and transcription termination of protein-coding genes, and form a dual pausing model of RNA polymerase II in the alternative polyadenylation sites’ region, to ensure effective 3' end processing.