YY1 is an epigenetic regulator for a large number of mammalian genes. While performing genome-wide YY1 binding motif searches, we discovered that the olfactory receptor (OLFR) genes have an unusual cluster of YY1 binding sites within their coding regions. The statistical significance of this observation was further analyzed.
About 45% of the olfactory genes in the mouse have a range of 4-8 YY1 binding sites within their respective 1 kb coding regions. Statistical analyses indicate that this enrichment of YY1 motifs has likely been driven by unknown selection pressures at the DNA level, but not serendipitously by some peptides enriched within the OLFR genes. Similar patterns are also detected in the OLFR genes of all mammals analyzed, but not in the OLFR genes of the fish lineage, suggesting a mammal-specific phenomenon.
YY1, or YY1-related transcription factors, may help regulate olfactory receptor genes. Furthermore, the protein-coding regions of vertebrate genes can contain cis-regulatory elements for transcription factor binding as well as codons.