Cells are subjected to dramatic changes of gene expression upon environmental changes. Stress causes a general down-regulation of gene expression together with the induction of a set of stress-responsive genes. The p38-related stress-activated protein kinase Hog1 is an important regulator of transcription upon osmostress in yeast.
Genome-wide localization studies of RNA polymerase II (RNA Pol II) and Hog1 showed that stress induced major changes in RNA Pol II localization, with a shift toward stress-responsive genes relative to housekeeping genes. RNA Pol II relocalization required Hog1, which was also localized to stress-responsive loci. In addition to RNA Pol II-bound genes, Hog1 also localized to RNA polymerase III-bound genes, pointing to a wider role for Hog1 in transcriptional control than initially expected. Interestingly, an increasing association of Hog1 with stress-responsive genes was strongly correlated with chromatin remodeling and increased gene expression. Remarkably, MNase-Seq analysis showed that although chromatin structure was not significantly altered at a genome-wide level in response to stress, there was pronounced chromatin remodeling for those genes that displayed Hog1 association.
Hog1 serves to bypass the general down-regulation of gene expression that occurs in response to osmostress, and does so both by targeting RNA Pol II machinery and by inducing chromatin remodeling at stress-responsive loci.