Transcriptional enhancers are the primary determinants of tissue-specific gene expression. Although the majority of our current knowledge of enhancer elements comes from detailed analyses of individual loci, recent progress in epigenomics has led to the development of methods for comprehensive and conservation-independent annotation of cell type-specific enhancers. Here, we discuss the advantages and limitations of different genomic approaches to enhancer mapping and summarize observations that have been afforded by the genome-wide views of enhancer landscapes, with a focus on development. We propose that enhancers serve as information integration hubs, at which instructions encoded by the genome are read in the context of a specific cellular state, signaling milieu and chromatin environment, allowing for exquisitely precise spatiotemporal control of gene expression during embryogenesis.
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