Exposure of mammalian cells to stress induces the activation of heat shock transcription factor 1 (HSF1) and the subsequent transcription of heat shock genes. Activation of the heat shock response also correlates with a rapid relocalization of HSF1 within a few nuclear structures termed nuclear stress granules. These stress-induced structures, which form primarily on the 9q12 region in humans through direct binding of HSF1 to satellite III repeats, do not colocalize with transcription sites of known hsp genes. In this paper, we show that nuclear stress granules correspond to RNA polymerase II transcription factories where satellite III repeats are transcribed into large and stable RNAs that remain associated with the 9q12 region, even throughout mitosis. This work not only reveals the existence of a new major heat-induced transcript in human cells that may play a role in chromatin structure, but also provides evidence for a transcriptional activity within a locus considered so far as heterochromatic and silent.
- RNA polymerase II
- satellite III