The SET domain is a 130-amino acid, evolutionarily conserved sequence motif present in chromosomal proteins that function in modulating gene activities from yeast to mammals. Initially identified as members of the Polycomb- and trithorax-group (Pc-G and trx-G) gene families, which are required to maintain expression boundaries of homeotic selector (HOM-C) genes, SET domain proteins are also involved in position-effect-variegation (PEV), telomeric and centromeric gene silencing, and possibly in determining chromosome architecture. These observations implicate SET domain proteins as multifunctional chromatin regulators with activities in both eu- and heterochromatin--a role consistent with their modular structure, which combines the SET domain with additional sequence motifs of either a cysteine-rich region/zinc-finger type or the chromo domain. Multiple functions for chromatin regulators are not restricted to the SET protein family, since many trx-G (but only very few Pc-G) genes are also modifiers of PEV. Together, these data establish a model in which the modulation of chromatin domains is mechanistically linked with the regulation of key developmental loci (e.g. HOM-C).