The CTCF transcription factor is an 11 zinc fingers multifunctional protein that uses different zinc finger combinations to recognize and bind different sites within DNA. CTCF is thought to participate in various gene regulatory networks including transcription activation and repression, formation of independently functioning chromatin domains and regulation of imprinting. Sequencing of human and other genomes opened up a possibility to ascertain the genomic distribution of CTCF binding sites and to identify CTCF-dependent cis-regulatory elements, including insulators. In the review, we summarized recent data on genomic distribution of CTCF binding sites in the human and other genomes within a framework of the loop domain hypothesis of large-scale regulation of the genome activity. We also tried to formulate possible lines of studies on a variety of CTCF functions which probably depend on its ability to specifically bind DNA, interact with other proteins and form di- and multimers. These three fundamental properties allow CTCF to serve as a transcription factor, an insulator and a constitutive dispersed genome-wide demarcation tool able to recruit various factors that emerge in response to diverse external and internal signals, and thus to exert its signal-specific function(s).
Keywords: CTCF, transcription factor, insulator, loop domains, gene regulation
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