Enhancers are regions of DNA that do not code for proteins, but control how genes are expressed. Super-enhancers are clusters of enhancers that together regulate genes with important roles in cell identity. Scientists at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital studied the Vsx2 super-enhancer and its role in the development of the retina. Their assessment showed the super-enhancer has four distinct regions with different functions. This modular super-enhancer provides a way to study gene expression during development. A paper on the work was published today in Nature Communications.
“In brain development, important transcription factors, like Vsx2, and many others, are often expressed in different parts of the developing brain at different times but in a precisely orchestrated way,” said corresponding author Michael Dyer, Ph.D., St. Jude Department of Developmental Neurobiology chair and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. “We wanted to better understand how this complicated dance of expression is controlled where the gene is turned on at one moment in one cell type, then turned off in another and later activated in a different region completely.”