Transcriptional enhancers are regulatory DNA elements that underlie the specificity and dynamic patterns of gene expression. Over the past decade, large-scale functional genomics projects have driven transformative progress in our understanding of enhancers. These data have relevance for identifying mechanisms of gene regulation in the CNS, elucidating the function of non-coding regulatory sequences in neurobiology and linking sequence variation within enhancers to genetic risk for neurological and psychiatric disorders. However, the sheer volume and complexity of genomic data presents a challenge to interpreting enhancer function in normal and pathogenic neurobiological processes. Here, to advance the application of genome-scale enhancer data, we offer a primer on current models of enhancer function in the CNS, we review how enhancers regulate gene expression across the neuronal lifespan, and we suggest how emerging findings regarding the role of non-coding sequence variation offer opportunities for understanding brain disorders and developing new technologies for neuroscience.
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