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Biochem Cell Biol. 2010 Dec;88(6):875-84. doi: 10.1139/O10-110.

Gene insulation. Part I: natural strategies in yeast and Drosophila.

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CNRS-Interactions à Distance, Paris, France


This review in two parts deals with the increasing number of processes known to be used by eukaryotic cells to protect gene expression from undesired genomic enhancer or chromatin effects, by means of the so-called insulators or barriers. The most advanced studies in this expanding field concern yeasts and Drosophila (this article) and the vertebrates (next article in this issue). Clearly, the cell makes use of every gene context to find the appropriate, economic, solution. Thus, besides the elements formerly identified and specifically dedicated to insulation, a number of unexpected elements are diverted from their usual function to structure the genome and enhancer action or to prevent heterochromatin spreading. They are, for instance, genes actively transcribed by RNA polymerase II or III, partial elements of these transcriptional machineries (stalled RNA polymerase II, normally required by genes that must respond quickly to stimuli, or TFIIIC bound at its B-box, normally required by RNA polymerase III for assembly of the transcription initiation complex at tRNA genes), or genomic sequences occupied by variants of standard histones, which, being rapidly and permanently replaced, impede heterochromatin formation.

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