Enhancers or cis-regulatory modules play an instructive role in regulating gene expression during animal development and in response to the environment. Despite their importance, we only have an incomplete map of enhancers in the genome and our understanding of the mechanisms governing their function is still limited. Recent advances in genomics provided powerful tools to generate genome-wide maps of potential enhancers. However, most of these methods are based on indirect measures of enhancer activity and have to be followed by functional testing. Animal transgenesis has been a valuable method to functionally test and characterize enhancers in vivo. In this review I discuss how different transgenic strategies are utilized to characterize enhancers in model organisms focusing on studies in Drosophila and mouse. I will further discuss recent large-scale transgenic efforts to systematically identify and catalog enhancers as well as highlight the challenges and future directions in the field.
Keywords: BAC transgenesis; Cis-regulatory module; Enhancer; Enhancer-trap; Regulatory genomics; Transgenic reporter; Transposon.
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