Sprinkled throughout the genome are a million regulatory sequences called transcriptional enhancers that activate gene promoters in the right cells, at the right time. Enhancers endow the brain with its incredible diversity of cell types and also translate neural activity into gene induction. Thanks to rapid advances in genomic technologies, it is now possible to identify thousands of enhancers rapidly, test their transcriptional function en masse, and address their neurobiological functions via genome editing. Enhancers also promise to be a great technological opportunity for neuroscience, offering the potential for cell-type-specific genetic labeling and manipulation without the need for transgenesis. The objective of this review and the accompanying 2015 SfN mini-symposium is to highlight the use of new and emerging genomic technologies to probe enhancer function in the nervous system.
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