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Molecular and Cellular Biology

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Transcription in eukaryotic cells occurs in the context of chromatin. Binding of sequence-specific regulatory factors must contend with the presence of nucleosomes for establishment of a committed preinitiation complex. Here we demonstrate that the high-affinity binding site for heat shock transcription factor (HSF) is occupied independently of other cis-regulatory elements and is critically required for preventing nucleosomal assembly over the yeast HSC82 core promoter under both noninducing (basal) and inducing conditions. Chromosomal mutation of this sequence, termed HSE1, erases the HSF footprint and abolishes both transcription and in vivo occupancy of the TATA box. Moreover, it dramatically reduces promoter chromatin accessibility to DNase I and TaqI, as the nuclease-hypersensitive region is replaced by a localized nucleosome. By comparison, in situ mutagenesis of two other promoter elements engaged in stable protein-DNA interactions in vivo, the GRF2/REB1 site and the TATA box, despite reducing transcription three- to fivefold, does not compromise the nucleosome-free state of the promoter. The GRF2-binding factor appears to facilitate the binding of proteins to both HSE1 and TATA, as these sequences, while still occupied, are less protected from in vivo dimethyl sulfate methylation in a deltaGRF2 strain. Finally, deletion of a consensus upstream repressor sequence (URS1), positioned immediately upstream of the GRF2-HSE1 region and only weakly occupied in chromatin, has no expression phenotype, even under meiotic conditions. However, deletion of URS1, like mutation of GRF2, shifts the translational setting of an upstream nucleosomal array flanking the promoter region. Taken together, our results argue that HSF, independent of and dominant among sequence-specific factors binding to the HSC82 upstream region, antagonizes nucleosomal repression and creates an accessible chromatin structure conducive to preinitiation complex assembly and transcriptional activation.


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