A comprehensive view of chromatin

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"ChIP’ing the mammalian genome: technical advances and insights into functional elements", a Review recently published in Genome Medicine, examines the power of chromatin immunoprecipitation methods for genomic studies.

Chromatin immunoprecipitation, or ChIP, cross-links DNA with its associated proteins before using specific antibodies to precipitate whichever protein is of interest, bringing with it the attached DNA for further purification and analysis.  In this way, the specific DNA sequences associated with a certain transcription factor or a histone-modifying enzyme may be characterized.  

Eleanor Wong and Chia-Lin Wei point out that, while genome-wide ChIP assays have proved themselves extremely useful in the identification of novel functional regulatory elements and chromatin modifications, the uses of this method do not end there.  For example, technological advances have made it possible to study interactions between the human β-globin loci and enhancer elements many kilobases away.  In addition, studies of RNA-protein interactions have begun to elucidate the role of non-coding RNA in the expression of genes with diverse roles in development.  Successful implementation of ChIP methods and robust readout techniques hold great promise for interrogation of individual genomes, with the aim of learning about the fundamentals of transcriptional regulation. This in turn may lead to novel therapeutic targets for many types of disease, including (but not limited to) developmental disorders.

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Assistant Editor, Genome Medicine