Protecting against promiscuity: the regulatory role of insulators

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2002 Dec;59(12):2112-27. doi: 10.1007/s000180200011.


Eukaryotic genomes contain transcriptional regulatory elements that alter promoter activity through long-range interactions. Many control elements show a broad range of promoter interactions, suggesting that these elements are capable of inappropriate transcription. The identification of a novel class of directing regulatory elements, called insulators, has provided clues into mechanisms used in eukaryotic genomes to maintain transcription fidelity. Insulators contribute to the organization of independent domains of gene function by restricting enhancer and silencer function. This review describes the properties of insulators and related elements that have been isolated from several eukaryotic genomes. Two classes of models of insulator function are considered. These models provide insights into possible mechanisms used by these diverse elements to provide regulatory autonomy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromatin / genetics
  • Enhancer Elements, Genetic
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Insulator Elements*
  • Models, Genetic
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • Chromatin