Modification of enhancer chromatin: what, how, and why?

Mol Cell. 2013 Mar 7;49(5):825-37. doi: 10.1016/j.molcel.2013.01.038.


Emergence of form and function during embryogenesis arises in large part through cell-type- and cell-state-specific variation in gene expression patterns, mediated by specialized cis-regulatory elements called enhancers. Recent large-scale epigenomic mapping revealed unexpected complexity and dynamics of enhancer utilization patterns, with 400,000 putative human enhancers annotated by the ENCODE project alone. These large-scale efforts were largely enabled through the understanding that enhancers share certain stereotypical chromatin features. However, an important question still lingers: what is the functional significance of enhancer chromatin modification? Here we give an overview of enhancer-associated modifications of histones and DNA and discuss enzymatic activities involved in their dynamic deposition and removal. We describe potential downstream effectors of these marks and propose models for exploring functions of chromatin modification in regulating enhancer activity during development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromatin / genetics
  • Chromatin / metabolism*
  • Enhancer Elements, Genetic*
  • Epigenomics
  • Histones / genetics
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic


  • Chromatin
  • Histones