2010 Volume 56 Issue 5 Pages 502-507
As mouse oocytes approach maturity, a global repression of gene transcription occurs. Here, we investigated the involvement of RPB1, the largest subunit of RNA polymerase II (RNAP II), in the regulation of this transcriptional silencing mechanism. Using BrUTP to follow transcription in an in vitro run-on assay, we observed an abrupt decrease in transcriptional activity when oocytes reached their full size (approximately 80 μm). Immunoblotting using antibodies specific for the phosphorylated and unphosphorylated forms of RPB1 revealed that RPB1 is phosphorylated at Ser-2 and Ser-5 in the small growing oocytes in which active transcription occurs. By contrast, in transcriptionally inactive, full-grown oocytes, RPB1 is predominantly unphosphorylated. When we permeabilized the nuclear membrane using Triton X-100 during fixation for immunocytochemistry, the unphosphorylated form of RPB1 diffused out of the nucleus in the full-grown oocytes but still remained there in the small growing oocytes, indicating that RPB1 is not bound to DNA in full-grown oocytes. These results suggest that the immediate cause of global transcriptional silencing is the dissociation of RNAP II from the DNA. We also observed dissociation of RPB1 from the DNA in full-grown oocytes treated with trichostatin A to decondense their chromatin, suggesting that chromatin condensation is not an essential process in gene silencing during oocyte growth.