Sansó M, Vargas-Pérez I, Quintales L, Antequera F, Ayté J, Hidalgo E
In the fission yeast, the MAP kinase Sty1 and the transcription factor Atf1 regulate up to 400 genes in response to environmental signals, and both proteins have been shown to bind to their promoters in a stress-dependent manner. In a genetic search, we have isolated the histone H3 acetyltransferase Gcn5, a component of the SAGA complex, as being essential for oxidative stress survival and activation of those genes. Upon stress, Gcn5 is recruited to promoters and coding sequences of stress genes in a Sty1- and Atf1-dependent manner, causing both an enhanced acetylation of histone H3 and nucleosome eviction. Unexpectedly, recruitment of RNA polymerase II (Pol II) is not impaired in Δgcn5 cells. We show here that stress genes display a 400-bp long nucleosome depleted region upstream of the transcription start site even prior to activation. Stress treatment does not alter promoter nucleosome architecture, but induces eviction of the downstream nucleosomes at stress genes, which is not observed in Δgcn5 cells. We conclude that, while Pol II is recruited to nucleosome-free stress promoters in a transcription factor dependent manner, Gcn5 mediates eviction of nucleosomes positioned downstream of promoters, allowing efficient Pol II progression along the genes.