Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Widespread antisense long noncoding RNA (lncRNA) overlap with many protein-coding genes in mammals and emanate from gene promoter, enhancer, and termination regions. However, their origin and biological purpose remain unclear. We show that these antisense lncRNA can be generated by R-loops that form when nascent transcript invades the DNA duplex behind elongating RNA polymerase II (Pol II). Biochemically, R-loops act as intrinsic Pol II promoters to induce de novo RNA synthesis. Furthermore, their removal across the human genome by RNase H1 overexpression causes the selective reduction of antisense transcription. Consequently, we predict that R-loops act to facilitate the synthesis of many gene proximal antisense lncRNA. Not only are R-loops widely associated with DNA damage and repair, but we now show that they have the capacity to promote de novo transcript synthesis that may have aided the evolution of gene regulation.

Original publication




Journal article


Mol Cell

Publication Date



R-loop, RNA polymerase II, RNase H1, antisense lncRNA, enhancer RNA, human HeLa cells, promoter activity, single-stranded DNA