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Bioessays. 2002 Sep;24(9):828-35.

Protosilencers as building blocks for heterochromatin.

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Lab. De Biologie Moleculaire et Cellulaire, Lyon, France. Genevieve.Fourel@ens.lyon


DNA repetitions may provoke heterochromatinization. We explore here a model in which multiple cis-acting sequences that display no silencing activity on their own (protosilencers) may cooperate to establish and maintain a heterochromatin domain efficiently. Protosilencers, first defined in budding yeast, have now been found in a wide range of genomes where they appear to stabilize and to extend the propagation of heterochromatin domains. Strikingly, isolated or moderately repeated protosilencers can also be found in promoters where they participate in transcriptional activation and have insulation functions. This suggests that the proper juxtaposition of a threshold number of protosilencers converts them from neutral or transactivating elements into ones that nucleate heterochromatin. Interactions might be transient or permanent, and are likely to occur over distances by looping. This model provides a conceptual framework for as varied phenomena as telomere-driven silencing in Drosophila, X inactivation in mammals, and rDNA silencing in S. cerevisiae. It may also account for the silencing that occurs when multiple copies of a transgene are inserted in tandem.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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