Mechanisms by which transcription factors gain access to target sequence elements in chromatin

Curr Opin Genet Dev. 2013 Apr;23(2):116-23. doi: 10.1016/j.gde.2012.11.008. Epub 2012 Dec 19.


Transcription factors (TF) bind DNA sequence motifs, but the presence of a consensus DNA element is not sufficient to direct TF binding to chromatin. Recent genomic data have revealed that accessibility, as measured by DNase sensitivity and the presence of active histone marks, is necessary for TF binding. DNA sequence provides the initial specification of the accessibility of DNA elements within chromatin that permits TF binding. In yeast, it is known that poly(dA-dT) tracts directly encode low-nucleosome occupancy at promoters. Recent evidence suggests that CpG islands in mammals are inherently refractory to higher-order chromatin structure and remain accessible, despite favoring nucleosome formation in vitro. Taken together, these studies support a model for how accessibility originates and then propagates throughout regulatory cascades and development.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromatin / genetics*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Deoxyribonucleases / genetics
  • Deoxyribonucleases / metabolism
  • Genome*
  • Histones / genetics
  • Nucleosomes / genetics
  • Nucleotide Motifs / genetics*
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Regulatory Sequences, Nucleic Acid / genetics*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / genetics*
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism


  • Chromatin
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Histones
  • Nucleosomes
  • Transcription Factors
  • Deoxyribonucleases