Dosage compensation in Drosophila is mediated by the MSL complex, which increases male X-linked gene expression approximately 2-fold. The MSL complex preferentially binds the bodies of active genes on the male X, depositing H4K16ac with a 3' bias. Two models have been proposed for the influence of the MSL complex on transcription: one based on promoter recruitment of RNA polymerase II (Pol II), and a second featuring enhanced transcriptional elongation. Here, we utilize nascent RNA sequencing to document dosage compensation during transcriptional elongation. We also compare X and autosomes from published data on paused and elongating polymerase in order to assess the role of Pol II recruitment. Our results support a model for differentially regulated elongation, starting with release from 5' pausing and increasing through X-linked gene bodies. Our results highlight facilitated transcriptional elongation as a key mechanism for the coordinated regulation of a diverse set of genes.
The male-specific lethal (MSL) complex upregulates the single male X chromosome to achieve dosage compensation in Drosophila melanogaster. We have proposed that MSL recognition of specific entry sites on the X is followed by local targeting of active genes marked by histone H3 trimethylation (H3K36me3). Here we analyze the role of the MSL3 chromodomain in the second targeting step. Using ChIP-chip analysis, we find that MSL3 chromodomain mutants retain binding to chromatin entry sites but show a clear disruption in the full pattern of MSL targeting in vivo, consistent with a loss of spreading. Furthermore, when compared to wild type, chromodomain mutants lack preferential affinity for nucleosomes containing H3K36me3 in vitro. Our results support a model in which activating complexes, similarly to their silencing counterparts, use the nucleosomal binding specificity of their respective chromodomains to spread from initiation sites to flanking chromatin.