How a single genome can give rise to distinct cell types remains a fundamental question in biology. Mammals are able to specify and maintain hundreds of cell fates by selectively activating unique subsets of their genome. This is achieved, in part, by enhancers - genetic elements that can increase transcription of both nearby and distal genes. Enhancers can be identified by their unique chromatin signature, including transcription factor binding and the enrichment of specific histone post-translational modifications, histone variants, and chromatin-associated cofactors. How each of these chromatin features contributes to enhancer function remains an area of intense study. In this review, we provide an overview of enhancer-associated chromatin states, and the proteins and enzymes involved in their establishment. We discuss recent insights into the effects of the enhancer chromatin state on ongoing transcription versus their role in the establishment of new transcription programmes, such as those that occur developmentally. Finally, we highlight the role of enhancer chromatin in new conceptual advances in gene regulation such as condensate formation.
- histone variants
- phase separation
- post-translational modification
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)