CTCF function is modulated by neighboring DNA binding factors

Biochem Cell Biol. 2011 Oct;89(5):459-68. doi: 10.1139/o11-033. Epub 2011 Sep 7.


The zinc-finger protein CTCF was originally identified in the context of gene silencing and gene repression (Baniahmad et al. 1990; Lobanenkov et al. 1990). CTCF was later shown to be involved in several transcriptional mechanisms such as gene activation (Vostrov et al. 2002) and enhancer blocking (Filippova et al. 2001; Hark et al. 2000; Kanduri et al. 2000; Lutz et al. 2003; Szabó et al. 2000; Tanimoto et al. 2003; Phillips and Corces 2009; Bell et al. 1999; Zlatanova and Caiafa 2009a, 2009b). Insulators block the action of enhancers when positioned between enhancer and promoter. CTCF was found to be required in almost all cases of enhancer blocking tested in vertebrates. This CTCF-mediated enhancer blocking is in many instances conferred by constitutive CTCF action. For some examples however, a modulation of the enhancer blocking activity was documented (Lutz et al. 2003; Weth et al. 2010). One mechanism is achieved by regulation of binding to DNA. It was shown that CTCF is not able to bind to those binding-sites containing methylated CpG sequences. At the imprinting control region (ICR) of the Igf2/H19 locus the binding-site for CTCF on the paternal allele is methylated. This prevents DNA-binding of CTCF, resulting in the loss of enhancer blocking (Bell and Felsenfeld 2000; Chao et al. 2002; Filippova et al. 2001; Hark et al. 2000; Kanduri et al. 2000, 2002; Szabó et al. 2000; Takai et al. 2001). Not only can DNA methylation interfere with CTCF binding to DNA, it was also shown in one report that RNA transcription through the CTCF binding site results in CTCF eviction (Lefevre et al. 2008). In contrast to these cases most of the DNA sites are not differentially bound by CTCF. Even CTCF interaction with its cofactor cohesin does not seem to differ in different cell types (Schmidt et al. 2010). These results indicate that regulation of CTCF activity might be achieved by neighboring factors bound to DNA. In fact, whole genome analyses of CTCF binding sites identified several classes of neighboring sequences (Dickson et al. 2010; Boyle et al. 2010; Essien et al. 2009). Therefore, in this review we will summarize those results for which a combined action of CTCF with factors bound adjacently was found. These neighboring factors include the RNA polymerases I, II and III, another zinc finger factor VEZF1 and the factors YY1, SMAD, TR and Oct4. Each of these seems to influence, modulate or determine the function of CTCF. Thereby, at least some of the pleiotropic effects of CTCF can be explained.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Binding Sites / genetics
  • CCCTC-Binding Factor
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / chemistry
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Humans
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor II / genetics
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor II / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • RNA, Long Noncoding
  • RNA, Untranslated / genetics
  • RNA, Untranslated / metabolism
  • Repressor Proteins / genetics
  • Repressor Proteins / metabolism*
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*


  • CCCTC-Binding Factor
  • CTCF protein, human
  • Ctcf protein, mouse
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • H19 long non-coding RNA
  • RNA, Long Noncoding
  • RNA, Untranslated
  • Repressor Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor II