Retroelement insertion can alter the expression of nearby genes. The Saccharomyces cerevisiae retrotransposons Ty1-Ty4 are transcribed by RNA polymerase II (pol II) and target their integration upstream of genes transcribed by RNA polymerase III (pol III), mainly tRNA genes. Because tRNA genes can repress nearby pol II-transcribed genes, we hypothesized that transcriptional interference may exist between Ty1 insertions and pol III-transcribed genes, the preferred targets for Ty1 integration. Ty1s upstream of two pol III-transcribed genes (SNR6 and SUP2) were recovered and analyzed by RNA blot analysis. Ty1 insertions were found to exert a neutral or modest stimulatory effect on the expression of these genes. Further RNA analysis indicated a modest tRNA position effect on Ty1 transcription. To investigate the possible genomic relevance of these expression effects, we compiled a comprehensive tRNA gene database. This database allowed us to analyze a genome's worth of tRNA genes and Ty elements. It also enabled the prediction and experimental confirmation of tRNA gene position effects at native chromosomal loci. We provide evidence supporting the hypothesis that tRNA genes exert a modest inhibitory effect on adjacent pol II promoters. Direct analysis of PTR3 transcription, promoted by sequences very close to a tRNA gene, shows that this tRNA position effect can operate on a native chromosomal gene.
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