The human genome encodes large numbers of non-coding RNAs, including divergent antisense transcripts at transcription start sites (TSSs). However, molecular mechanisms by which divergent antisense transcription is regulated have not been detailed. Here, we report a novel ZWC complex composed of ZC3H4, WDR82 and CK2 that suppresses divergent antisense transcription. The ZWC complex preferentially localizes at TSSs of active genes through direct interactions of ZC3H4 and WDR82 subunits with the S5p RNAPII C-terminal domain. ZC3H4 depletion leads to increased divergent antisense transcription, especially at genes that naturally produce divergent antisense transcripts. We further demonstrate that the ZWC complex phosphorylates the previously uncharacterized N-terminal acidic domain of SPT5, a subunit of the transcription-elongation factor DSIF, and that this phosphorylation is responsible for suppressing divergent antisense transcription. Our study provides evidence that the newly identified ZWC-DSIF axis regulates the direction of transcription during the transition from early to productive elongation.
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