Transcription readthrough is prevalent in healthy human tissues and associated with inherent genomic features

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Transcription termination is a crucial step in the production of conforming mRNAs and functional proteins. Under cellular stress conditions, the transcription machinery fails to identify the termination site and continues transcribing beyond gene boundaries, a phenomenon designated as transcription readthrough. However, the prevalence and impact of this phenomenon in healthy human tissues remain unexplored. Here, we assessed transcription readthrough in almost 3000 transcriptome profiles representing 23 human tissues and found that 34% of the expressed protein-coding genes produced readthrough transcripts. The production of readthrough transcripts was restricted in genomic regions with high transcriptional activity and was associated with inefficient splicing and increased chromatin accessibility in terminal regions. In addition, we showed that these transcripts contained several binding sites for the same miRNA, unravelling a potential role as miRNA sponges. Overall, this work provides evidence that transcription readthrough is pervasive and non-stochastic, not only in abnormal conditions but also in healthy tissues. This suggests a potential role for such transcripts in modulating normal cellular functions.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100
Number of pages12
JournalCommunications Biology
Issue number1
Early online date15 Jan 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 15 Jan 2024


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