Overexpression of the MYC transcription factor causes its widespread interaction with regulatory elements in the genome but leads to the up- and down-regulation of discrete sets of genes. The molecular determinants of these selective transcriptional responses remain elusive. Here, we present an integrated time-course analysis of transcription and mRNA dynamics following MYC activation in proliferating mouse fibroblasts, based on chromatin immunoprecipitation, metabolic labeling of newly synthesized RNA, extensive sequencing, and mathematical modeling. Transcriptional activation correlated with the highest increases in MYC binding at promoters. Repression followed a reciprocal scenario, with the lowest gains in MYC binding. Altogether, the relative abundance (henceforth, "share") of MYC at promoters was the strongest predictor of transcriptional responses in diverse cell types, predominating over MYC's association with the corepressor ZBTB17 (also known as MIZ1). MYC activation elicited immediate loading of RNA polymerase II (RNAPII) at activated promoters, followed by increases in pause-release, while repressed promoters showed opposite effects. Gains and losses in RNAPII loading were proportional to the changes in the MYC share, suggesting that repression by MYC may be partly indirect, owing to competition for limiting amounts of RNAPII. Secondary to the changes in RNAPII loading, the dynamics of elongation and pre-mRNA processing were also rapidly altered at MYC regulated genes, leading to the transient accumulation of partially or aberrantly processed mRNAs. Altogether, our results shed light on how overexpressed MYC alters the various phases of the RNAPII cycle and the resulting transcriptional response.
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