Diversity and Emerging Roles of Enhancer RNA in Regulation of Gene Expression and Cell Fate

Preston R. Arnold, Andrew D. Wells, Xian C. Li

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

136 Scopus citations


Enhancers are cis-regulatory elements in the genome that cooperate with promoters to control target gene transcription. Unlike promoters, enhancers are not necessarily adjacent to target genes and can exert their functions regardless of enhancer orientations, positions and spatial segregations from target genes. Thus, for a long time, the question as to how enhancers act in a temporal and spatial manner attracted considerable attention. The recent discovery that enhancers are also abundantly transcribed raises interesting questions about the exact roles of enhancer RNA (eRNA) in gene regulation. In this review, we highlight the process of enhancer transcription and the diverse features of eRNA. We review eRNA functions, which include enhancer-promoter looping, chromatin modifying, and transcription regulating. As eRNA are transcribed from active enhancers, they exhibit tissue and lineage specificity, and serve as markers of cell state and function. Finally, we discuss the unique relationship between eRNA and super enhancers in phase separation wherein eRNA may contribute significantly to cell fate decisions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number377
Pages (from-to)377
JournalFrontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology
StatePublished - 2019


  • eRNA
  • enhancer
  • gene regulation
  • non-coding RNA
  • phase separation
  • super enhancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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