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Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2013 May 6;368(1620):20120369. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2012.0369. Print 2013.

CTCF: the protein, the binding partners, the binding sites and their chromatin loops.

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Hubrecht Institute-KNAW and University Medical Center Utrecht, Uppsalalaan 8, 3584 CT Utrecht, The Netherlands.


CTCF has it all. The transcription factor binds to tens of thousands of genomic sites, some tissue-specific, others ultra-conserved. It can act as a transcriptional activator, repressor and insulator, and it can pause transcription. CTCF binds at chromatin domain boundaries, at enhancers and gene promoters, and inside gene bodies. It can attract many other transcription factors to chromatin, including tissue-specific transcriptional activators, repressors, cohesin and RNA polymerase II, and it forms chromatin loops. Yet, or perhaps therefore, CTCF's exact function at a given genomic site is unpredictable. It appears to be determined by the associated transcription factors, by the location of the binding site relative to the transcriptional start site of a gene, and by the site's engagement in chromatin loops with other CTCF-binding sites, enhancers or gene promoters. Here, we will discuss genome-wide features of CTCF binding events, as well as locus-specific functions of this remarkable transcription factor.


CTCF; chromatin loops; cohesin; nuclear organization; transcription

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