Noncoding Transcription at Enhancers: General Principles and Functional Models
Mammalian genomes are extensively transcribed outside the borders of protein-coding genes. Genome-wide studies recently demonstrated that cis-regulatory genomic elements implicated in transcriptional control, such as enhancers and locus-control regions, represent major sites of extragenic noncoding transcription. Enhancer-templated transcripts provide a quantitatively small contribution to the total amount of cellular nonribosomal RNA; nevertheless, the possibility that enhancer transcription and the resulting enhancer RNAs may, in some cases, have functional roles, rather than represent mere transcriptional noise at accessible genomic regions, is supported by an increasing amount of experimental data. In this article we review the current knowledge on enhancer transcription and its functional implications.