The RNA Pol II transcription complex pauses just downstream of the promoter in a significant fraction of human genes. The local features of genomic structure that contribute to pausing have not been defined. Here, we show that genes that pause are more G-rich within the region flanking the transcription start site (TSS) than RefSeq genes or non-paused genes. We show that enrichment of binding motifs for common transcription factors, such as SP1, may account for G-richness upstream but not downstream of the TSS. We further show that pausing correlates with the presence of a GrIn1 element, an element bearing one or more G4 motifs at the 5′-end of the first intron, on the non-template DNA strand. These results suggest potential roles for dynamic G4 DNA and G4 RNA structures in cis-regulation of pausing, and thus genome-wide regulation of gene expression, in human cells.
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