Conspiracy of silence among repeated transgenes

Bioessays. 1998 Jul;20(7):532-5. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1521-1878(199807)20:7<532::AID-BIES3>3.0.CO;2-M.


Transgenic experiments in vertebrates often involve the insertion of tandem multiple-copy arrays at single sites. For many transgenes, expression is unpredictable from site to site, a phenomenon usually attributed to a repressive environment caused by nearby sequences. However, an alternative explanation comes from evidence that transgene repeat arrays in flies condense into heterochromatin, suggesting that low levels of expression in vertebrate transgene arrays might result from interactions between repeats within the array. A recent experiment using transgenic mouse lines demonstrates that reduction in copy number of silenced transgenes within an array leads to a striking increase in expression, demonstrating that silencing is intrinsic to the array, and is not attributable to position effects of nearby sequences. This work calls into question functions that have been attributed to vertebrate locus control regions and boundaries, and draws attention to the notion that repeat-induced gene silencing is a system for protection of eukaryotic genomes against threatening sequence elements.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drosophila / genetics
  • Gene Expression
  • Heterochromatin / genetics
  • Humans
  • Locus Control Region
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Models, Genetic
  • Multigene Family*
  • Repetitive Sequences, Nucleic Acid*


  • Heterochromatin