Intragenic Enhancers Attenuate Host Gene Expression

Mol Cell. 2017 Oct 5;68(1):104-117.e6. doi: 10.1016/j.molcel.2017.09.010.


Eukaryotic gene transcription is regulated at many steps, including RNA polymerase II (Pol II) recruitment, transcription initiation, promoter-proximal Pol II pause release, and transcription termination; however, mechanisms regulating transcription during productive elongation remain poorly understood. Enhancers, which activate gene transcription, themselves undergo Pol II-mediated transcription, but our understanding of enhancer transcription and enhancer RNAs (eRNAs) remains incomplete. Here we show that transcription at intragenic enhancers interferes with and attenuates host gene transcription during productive elongation. While the extent of attenuation correlates positively with nascent eRNA expression, the act of intragenic enhancer transcription alone, but not eRNAs, explains the attenuation. Through CRISPR/Cas9-mediated deletions, we demonstrate a physiological role for intragenic enhancer-mediated transcription attenuation in cell fate determination. We propose that intragenic enhancers not only enhance transcription of one or more genes from a distance but also fine-tune transcription of their host gene through transcription interference, facilitating differential utilization of the same regulatory element for disparate functions.

Keywords: enhancer; enhancer RNA; enhancer transcription; genetics; genomics; transcription regulation.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CRISPR-Cas Systems
  • Cell Line
  • Chromatin / chemistry
  • Chromatin / metabolism
  • Embryoid Bodies / cytology
  • Embryoid Bodies / metabolism
  • Enhancer Elements, Genetic*
  • Gene Editing
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Mice
  • Mouse Embryonic Stem Cells / cytology
  • Mouse Embryonic Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • RNA / genetics
  • RNA / metabolism
  • RNA Polymerase II / genetics*
  • RNA Polymerase II / metabolism
  • Transcription Elongation, Genetic*


  • Chromatin
  • RNA
  • RNA Polymerase II