Zhao Z et al.
Attenuation of ribosome biogenesis in suboptimal growth environments is crucial for cellular homeostasis and genetic integrity. Here, we show that shutdown of rRNA synthesis in response to elevated temperature is brought about by mechanisms that target both the RNA polymerase I (Pol I) transcription machinery and the epigenetic signature of the rDNA promoter. Upon heat shock, the basal transcription factor TIF-IA is inactivated by inhibition of CK2-dependent phosphorylations at Ser170/172. Attenuation of pre-rRNA synthesis in response to heat stress is accompanied by upregulation of PAPAS, a long non-coding RNA (lncRNA) that is transcribed in antisense orientation to pre-rRNA. PAPAS interacts with CHD4, the adenosine triphosphatase subunit of NuRD, leading to deacetylation of histones and movement of the promoter-bound nucleosome into a position that is refractory to transcription initiation. The results exemplify how stress-induced inactivation of TIF-IA and lncRNA-dependent changes of chromatin structure ensure repression of rRNA synthesis in response to thermo-stress.