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Int J Dev Biol. 2009;53(8-10):1367-78. doi: 10.1387/ijdb.072428ma.

Understanding the regulatory genome.

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Instituto de Investigaciones Biomédicas CSIC-UAM, Madrid, Spain.


The sequencing of the whole genome of multiple species provides us with the instruction book of how to build an organism and make it work, plus a detailed history of how diversity was generated during evolution. Unfortunately, we still understand only a small fraction, which is locating where genes are and deciphering the proteins they code for. The next step is to understand how the correct amount of gene products are produced in space and time to obtain a fully functioning organism, from the egg to the adult. This is what is known as the regulatory genome, a term coined by Eric H. Davidson. In this review, we examine what we know about gene regulation from a genomic point of view, revise the current in silico, in vitro and in vivo methodological approaches to study transcriptional regulation, and point to the power of phylogenetic footprinting as a guide to regulatory element discovery. The advantages and limitations of each approach are considered, with the emerging view that only large-scale studies and data-crunching will give us insight into the language of genomic regulatory systems, and allow the discovery of regulatory codes in the genome.

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