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Discovery and analysis of silencers in Drosophila acting as enhancers in other cellular contexts

Abstract : A major challenge in biology is to understand how complex gene expression patterns in organismal development are encoded in the genome. While transcriptional enhancers have been studied extensively, few transcriptional silencers have been identified and they remain poorly understood. Here we used a novel strategy to screen hundreds of sequences for tissue-specific silencer activity in whole Drosophila embryos. Strikingly, 100% of the tested elements that we found to act as transcriptional silencers were also active enhancers in other cellular contexts. These elements were enriched in highly occupied target (HOT) region overlap (Roy et al., 2010) and specific transcription factor (TF) motif combinations. CRM bifunctionality complicates the understanding of how gene regulation is specified in the genome and how it is read out differently in different cell types. Our results challenge the common practice of treating elements with enhancer activity identified in one cell type as serving exclusively activating roles in the organism and suggest that thousands or more bifunctional CRMs remain to be discovered in Drosophila and perhaps 104-105 in human (Heintzman et al., 2009). Characterization of bifunctional elements should aid in investigations of how precise gene expression patterns are encoded in the genome.
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Alexandre Palagi. Discovery and analysis of silencers in Drosophila acting as enhancers in other cellular contexts. Molecular biology. Université Côte d'Azur, 2018. English. ⟨NNT : 2018AZUR4006⟩. ⟨tel-02509608v2⟩

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