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Mammalian cell nuclei contain three RNA polymerases (RNAP I, RNAP II and RNAP III), which transcribe different gene subsets, and whose active forms are contained in supramolecular complexes known as 'transcription factories.' These complexes are difficult to isolate because they are embedded in the 3D structure of the nucleus. Factories exchange components with the soluble nucleoplasmic pool over time as gene expression programs change during development or disease. Analysis of their content can provide information on the nascent transcriptome and its regulators. Here we describe a protocol for the isolation of large factory fragments under isotonic salt concentrations in <72 h. It relies on DNase I-mediated detachment of chromatin from the nuclear substructure of freshly isolated, unfixed cells, followed by caspase treatment to release multi-megadalton factory complexes. These complexes retain transcriptional activity, and isolation of their contents is compatible with downstream analyses by mass spectrometry (MS) or RNA-sequencing (RNA-seq) to catalog the proteins and RNA associated with sites of active transcription.

Original publication




Journal article


Nat Protoc

Publication Date





553 - 565


Animals, CHO Cells, Cell Fractionation, Cell Line, Cell Nucleus, Cricetulus, Gene Expression Profiling, HeLa Cells, Human Umbilical Vein Endothelial Cells, Humans, Mass Spectrometry, Proteins, Proteomics, RNA, Sequence Analysis, RNA, Transcription, Genetic, Transcriptome