Role of an insulator in testis-specific gene transcription

Prabhakara P. Reddi, Craig J. Urekar, Mayuresh M. Abhyankar, Sandeep A. Ranpura

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Testis-specific promoters are unique in that relatively short proximal promoters of several genes have been shown to be capable of directing tissue- and cell-type-specific expression in transgenic mice. How such small promoter fragments perform the dual functions of maintaining a silenced state in somatic tissues and activating gene expression in the correct germ-cell type in testis remains poorly understood. Studies from our laboratory using the round spermatid-specific SP-10 gene as an experimental model have provided some insights into the mechanisms involved. It was found that the proximal promoter of the SP-10 gene acts as a chromatin insulator or boundary element in somatic tissues and prevents transcription of the SP-10 gene. In round spermatids, the insulator function is relieved, thus facilitating the SP-10 gene transcription. Insulators act as enhancer blockers and/or barriers to heterochromatin to protect the programmed expression of a gene. Typically, insulators are separable from promoters. In the case of the SP-10 gene, however, the insulator overlaps the promoter and operates in a facultative manner. We hypothesize that the proximal promoters of some testis-specific genes have adapted the insulator function to maintain transcriptional silence in the somatic tissues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationTesticular Chromosome Structure and Gene Expression
PublisherBlackwell Publishing Inc.
Number of pages9
ISBN (Print)9781573316934
StatePublished - Dec 2007
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
ISSN (Print)0077-8923
ISSN (Electronic)1749-6632


  • Insulators
  • Promoters
  • Silencing
  • Spermatogenesis
  • TDP-43
  • Testis
  • Transcription

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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