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Dev Dyn. 2012 Dec;241(12):1857-66. doi: 10.1002/dvdy.23871. Epub 2012 Oct 16.

Multiple layers of complexity in cis-regulatory regions of developmental genes.

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  • Departamento de Ecología, Genética y Evolución, IEGEBA-CONICET, Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y Naturales, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina. nfrankel@ege.fcen.uba.ar

Abstract

Genomes contain the necessary information to ensure that genes are expressed in the right place, at the right time, and with the proper rate. Metazoan developmental genes often possess long stretches of DNA flanking their coding sequences and/or large introns which contain elements that influence gene expression. Most of these regulatory elements are relatively small and can be studied in isolation. For example, transcriptional enhancers, the elements that generate the expression pattern of a gene, have been traditionally studied with reporter constructs in transgenic animals. These studies have provided and will provide invaluable insights into enhancer evolution and function. However, this experimental approach has its limits; often, enhancer elements do not faithfully recapitulate native expression patterns. This fact suggests that additional information in cis-regulatory regions modulates the activity of enhancers and other regulatory elements. Indeed, recent studies have revealed novel functional aspects at the level of whole cis-regulatory regions. First, the discovery of "shadow enhancers." Second, the ubiquitous interactions between cis-regulatory elements. Third, the notion that some cis-regulatory regions may not function in a modular manner. Last, the effect of chromatin conformation on cis-regulatory activity. In this article, I describe these recent findings and discuss open questions in the field.

Copyright © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

PMID:
22972751
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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