The multifunctional CCCTC-binding factor (CTCF) protein exhibits a broad range of functions, including that of insulator and higher-order chromatin organizer. We found that CTCF comprises a previously unrecognized region that is necessary and sufficient to bind RNA (RNA-binding region [RBR]) and is distinct from its DNA-binding domain. Depletion of cellular CTCF led to a decrease in not only levels of p53 mRNA, as expected, but also those of Wrap53 RNA, an antisense transcript originated from the p53 locus. PAR-CLIP-seq (photoactivatable ribonucleoside-enhanced cross-linking and immunoprecipitation [PAR-CLIP] combined with deep sequencing) analyses indicate that CTCF binds a multitude of transcripts genome-wide as well as to Wrap53 RNA. Apart from its established role at the p53 promoter, CTCF regulates p53 expression through its physical interaction with Wrap53 RNA. Cells harboring a CTCF mutant in its RBR exhibit a defective p53 response to DNA damage. Moreover, the RBR facilitates CTCF multimerization in an RNA-dependent manner, which may bear directly on its role in establishing higher-order chromatin structures in vivo.
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