A Phase Separation Model for Transcriptional Control

Cell. 2017 Mar 23;169(1):13-23. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2017.02.007.


Phase-separated multi-molecular assemblies provide a general regulatory mechanism to compartmentalize biochemical reactions within cells. We propose that a phase separation model explains established and recently described features of transcriptional control. These features include the formation of super-enhancers, the sensitivity of super-enhancers to perturbation, the transcriptional bursting patterns of enhancers, and the ability of an enhancer to produce simultaneous activation at multiple genes. This model provides a conceptual framework to further explore principles of gene control in mammals.

Keywords: bursting; co-operativity; enhancer; gene control; nuclear body; phase separation; super-enhancer; transcription; transcriptional burst.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Enhancer Elements, Genetic
  • Eukaryotic Cells / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological*
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Transcription, Genetic*
  • Transcriptional Activation


  • Transcription Factors