The insulation of genes from external enhancers and silencing chromatin

Bonnie Burgess-Beusse, Catherine Farrell, Miklos Gaszner, Michael Litt, Vesco Mutskov, Felix Recillas-Targa, Melanie Simpson, Adam West, Gary Felsenfeld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

229 Scopus citations


Insulators are DNA sequence elements that can serve in some cases as barriers to protect a gene against the encroachment of adjacent inactive condensed chromatin. Some insulators also can act as blocking elements to protect against the activating influence of distal enhancers associated with other genes. Although most of the insulators identified so far derive from Drosophila, they also are found in vertebrates. An insulator at the S′ end of the chicken β-globin locus marks a boundary between an open chromatin domain and a region of constitutively condensed chromatin. Detailed analysis of this element shows that it possesses both enhancer blocking activity and the ability to screen reporter genes against position effects. Enhancer blocking is associated with binding of the protein CTCF; sites that bind CTCF are found at other critical points in the genome. Protection against position effects involves other properties that appear to be associated with control of histone acetylation and methylation. Insulators thus are complex elements that can help to preserve the independent function of genes embedded in a genome in which they are surrounded by regulatory signals they must ignore.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16433-16437
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue numberSUPPL. 4
StatePublished - Dec 10 2002
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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