Chromatin regulators of the Polycomb group of genes are well-known by their activities as transcriptional repressors. Characteristically, their presence at genomic sites occurs with specific histone modifications and sometimes high-order chromatin structures correlated with silencing of genes involved in cell differentiation. However, evidence gathered in recent years, on flies and mammals, shows that in addition to these sites, Polycomb products bind to a large number of active regulatory regions. Occupied sites include promoters and also intergenic regions, containing enhancers and super-enhancers. Contrasting with occupancies at repressed targets, characteristic histone modifications are low or undetectable. Functions on active targets are dual, restraining gene expression at some targets while promoting activity at others. Our aim here is to summarize the evidence available and discuss the convenience of broadening the scope of research to include Polycomb functions on active targets.
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