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1.  Position Weight Matrix, Gibbs Sampler, and the Associated Significance Tests in Motif Characterization and Prediction 
Scientifica  2012;2012:917540.
Position weight matrix (PWM) is not only one of the most widely used bioinformatic methods, but also a key component in more advanced computational algorithms (e.g., Gibbs sampler) for characterizing and discovering motifs in nucleotide or amino acid sequences. However, few generally applicable statistical tests are available for evaluating the significance of site patterns, PWM, and PWM scores (PWMS) of putative motifs. Statistical significance tests of the PWM output, that is, site-specific frequencies, PWM itself, and PWMS, are in disparate sources and have never been collected in a single paper, with the consequence that many implementations of PWM do not include any significance test. Here I review PWM-based methods used in motif characterization and prediction (including a detailed illustration of the Gibbs sampler for de novo motif discovery), present statistical and probabilistic rationales behind statistical significance tests relevant to PWM, and illustrate their application with real data. The multiple comparison problem associated with the test of site-specific frequencies is best handled by false discovery rate methods. The test of PWM, due to the use of pseudocounts, is best done by resampling methods. The test of individual PWMS for each sequence segment should be based on the extreme value distribution.
doi:10.6064/2012/917540
PMCID: PMC3820676  PMID: 24278755
2.  PSI-BLAST pseudocounts and the minimum description length principle 
Nucleic Acids Research  2008;37(3):815-824.
Position specific score matrices (PSSMs) are derived from multiple sequence alignments to aid in the recognition of distant protein sequence relationships. The PSI-BLAST protein database search program derives the column scores of its PSSMs with the aid of pseudocounts, added to the observed amino acid counts in a multiple alignment column. In the absence of theory, the number of pseudocounts used has been a completely empirical parameter. This article argues that the minimum description length principle can motivate the choice of this parameter. Specifically, for realistic alignments, the principle supports the practice of using a number of pseudocounts essentially independent of alignment size. However, it also implies that more highly conserved columns should use fewer pseudocounts, increasing the inter-column contrast of the implied PSSMs. A new method for calculating pseudocounts that significantly improves PSI-BLAST's; retrieval accuracy is now employed by default.
doi:10.1093/nar/gkn981
PMCID: PMC2647318  PMID: 19088134
3.  Assessment of clusters of transcription factor binding sites in relationship to human promoter, CpG islands and gene expression 
BMC Genomics  2004;5:16.
Background
Gene expression is regulated mainly by transcription factors (TFs) that interact with regulatory cis-elements on DNA sequences. To identify functional regulatory elements, computer searching can predict TF binding sites (TFBS) using position weight matrices (PWMs) that represent positional base frequencies of collected experimentally determined TFBS. A disadvantage of this approach is the large output of results for genomic DNA. One strategy to identify genuine TFBS is to utilize local concentrations of predicted TFBS. It is unclear whether there is a general tendency for TFBS to cluster at promoter regions, although this is the case for certain TFBS. Also unclear is the identification of TFs that have TFBS concentrated in promoters and to what level this occurs. This study hopes to answer some of these questions.
Results
We developed the cluster score measure to evaluate the correlation between predicted TFBS clusters and promoter sequences for each PWM. Non-promoter sequences were used as a control. Using the cluster score, we identified a PWM group called PWM-PCP, in which TFBS clusters positively correlate with promoters, and another PWM group called PWM-NCP, in which TFBS clusters negatively correlate with promoters. The PWM-PCP group comprises 47% of the 199 vertebrate PWMs, while the PWM-NCP group occupied 11 percent. After reducing the effect of CpG islands (CGI) against the clusters using partial correlation coefficients among three properties (promoter, CGI and predicted TFBS cluster), we identified two PWM groups including those strongly correlated with CGI and those not correlated with CGI.
Conclusion
Not all PWMs predict TFBS correlated with human promoter sequences. Two main PWM groups were identified: (1) those that show TFBS clustered in promoters associated with CGI, and (2) those that show TFBS clustered in promoters independent of CGI. Assessment of PWM matches will allow more positive interpretation of TFBS in regulatory regions.
doi:10.1186/1471-2164-5-16
PMCID: PMC375527  PMID: 15053842
promoter; tissue-specific gene expression; position weight matrix; regulatory motif
4.  Jaccard index based similarity measure to compare transcription factor binding site models 
Background
Positional weight matrix (PWM) remains the most popular for quantification of transcription factor (TF) binding. PWM supplied with a score threshold defines a set of putative transcription factor binding sites (TFBS), thus providing a TFBS model.
TF binding DNA fragments obtained by different experimental methods usually give similar but not identical PWMs. This is also common for different TFs from the same structural family. Thus it is often necessary to measure the similarity between PWMs. The popular tools compare PWMs directly using matrix elements. Yet, for log-odds PWMs, negative elements do not contribute to the scores of highly scoring TFBS and thus may be different without affecting the sets of the best recognized binding sites. Moreover, the two TFBS sets recognized by a given pair of PWMs can be more or less different depending on the score thresholds.
Results
We propose a practical approach for comparing two TFBS models, each consisting of a PWM and the respective scoring threshold. The proposed measure is a variant of the Jaccard index between two TFBS sets. The measure defines a metric space for TFBS models of all finite lengths. The algorithm can compare TFBS models constructed using substantially different approaches, like PWMs with raw positional counts and log-odds. We present the efficient software implementation: MACRO-APE (MAtrix CompaRisOn by Approximate P-value Estimation).
Conclusions
MACRO-APE can be effectively used to compute the Jaccard index based similarity for two TFBS models. A two-pass scanning algorithm is presented to scan a given collection of PWMs for PWMs similar to a given query.
Availability and implementation
MACRO-APE is implemented in ruby 1.9; software including source code and a manual is freely available at http://autosome.ru/macroape/ and in supplementary materials.
doi:10.1186/1748-7188-8-23
PMCID: PMC3851813  PMID: 24074225
Transcription factor binding site; TFBS; Transcription factor binding site model; Binding motif; Jaccard similarity; Position weight matrix; PWM; P-value; Position specific frequency matrix; PSFM; Macroape
5.  A General Pairwise Interaction Model Provides an Accurate Description of In Vivo Transcription Factor Binding Sites 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(6):e99015.
The identification of transcription factor binding sites (TFBSs) on genomic DNA is of crucial importance for understanding and predicting regulatory elements in gene networks. TFBS motifs are commonly described by Position Weight Matrices (PWMs), in which each DNA base pair contributes independently to the transcription factor (TF) binding. However, this description ignores correlations between nucleotides at different positions, and is generally inaccurate: analysing fly and mouse in vivo ChIPseq data, we show that in most cases the PWM model fails to reproduce the observed statistics of TFBSs. To overcome this issue, we introduce the pairwise interaction model (PIM), a generalization of the PWM model. The model is based on the principle of maximum entropy and explicitly describes pairwise correlations between nucleotides at different positions, while being otherwise as unconstrained as possible. It is mathematically equivalent to considering a TF-DNA binding energy that depends additively on each nucleotide identity at all positions in the TFBS, like the PWM model, but also additively on pairs of nucleotides. We find that the PIM significantly improves over the PWM model, and even provides an optimal description of TFBS statistics within statistical noise. The PIM generalizes previous approaches to interdependent positions: it accounts for co-variation of two or more base pairs, and predicts secondary motifs, while outperforming multiple-motif models consisting of mixtures of PWMs. We analyse the structure of pairwise interactions between nucleotides, and find that they are sparse and dominantly located between consecutive base pairs in the flanking region of TFBS. Nonetheless, interactions between pairs of non-consecutive nucleotides are found to play a significant role in the obtained accurate description of TFBS statistics. The PIM is computationally tractable, and provides a general framework that should be useful for describing and predicting TFBSs beyond PWMs.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0099015
PMCID: PMC4057186  PMID: 24926895
6.  The Next Generation of Transcription Factor Binding Site Prediction 
PLoS Computational Biology  2013;9(9):e1003214.
Finding where transcription factors (TFs) bind to the DNA is of key importance to decipher gene regulation at a transcriptional level. Classically, computational prediction of TF binding sites (TFBSs) is based on basic position weight matrices (PWMs) which quantitatively score binding motifs based on the observed nucleotide patterns in a set of TFBSs for the corresponding TF. Such models make the strong assumption that each nucleotide participates independently in the corresponding DNA-protein interaction and do not account for flexible length motifs. We introduce transcription factor flexible models (TFFMs) to represent TF binding properties. Based on hidden Markov models, TFFMs are flexible, and can model both position interdependence within TFBSs and variable length motifs within a single dedicated framework. The availability of thousands of experimentally validated DNA-TF interaction sequences from ChIP-seq allows for the generation of models that perform as well as PWMs for stereotypical TFs and can improve performance for TFs with flexible binding characteristics. We present a new graphical representation of the motifs that convey properties of position interdependence. TFFMs have been assessed on ChIP-seq data sets coming from the ENCODE project, revealing that they can perform better than both PWMs and the dinucleotide weight matrix extension in discriminating ChIP-seq from background sequences. Under the assumption that ChIP-seq signal values are correlated with the affinity of the TF-DNA binding, we find that TFFM scores correlate with ChIP-seq peak signals. Moreover, using available TF-DNA affinity measurements for the Max TF, we demonstrate that TFFMs constructed from ChIP-seq data correlate with published experimentally measured DNA-binding affinities. Finally, TFFMs allow for the straightforward computation of an integrated TF occupancy score across a sequence. These results demonstrate the capacity of TFFMs to accurately model DNA-protein interactions, while providing a single unified framework suitable for the next generation of TFBS prediction.
Author Summary
Transcription factors are critical proteins for sequence-specific control of transcriptional regulation. Finding where these proteins bind to DNA is of key importance for global efforts to decipher the complex mechanisms of gene regulation. Greater understanding of the regulation of transcription promises to improve human genetic analysis by specifying critical gene components that have eluded investigators. Classically, computational prediction of transcription factor binding sites (TFBS) is based on models giving weights to each nucleotide at each position. We introduce a novel statistical model for the prediction of TFBS tolerant of a broader range of TFBS configurations than can be conveniently accommodated by existing methods. The new models are designed to address the confounding properties of nucleotide composition, inter-positional sequence dependence and variable lengths (e.g. variable spacing between half-sites) observed in the more comprehensive experimental data now emerging. The new models generate scores consistent with DNA-protein affinities measured experimentally and can be represented graphically, retaining desirable attributes of past methods. It demonstrates the capacity of the new approach to accurately assess DNA-protein interactions. With the rich experimental data generated from chromatin immunoprecipitation experiments, a greater diversity of TFBS properties has emerged that can now be accommodated within a single predictive approach.
doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003214
PMCID: PMC3764009  PMID: 24039567
7.  Creating PWMs of transcription factors using 3D structure-based computation of protein-DNA free binding energies 
BMC Bioinformatics  2010;11:225.
Background
Knowledge of transcription factor-DNA binding patterns is crucial for understanding gene transcription. Numerous DNA-binding proteins are annotated as transcription factors in the literature, however, for many of them the corresponding DNA-binding motifs remain uncharacterized.
Results
The position weight matrices (PWMs) of transcription factors from different structural classes have been determined using a knowledge-based statistical potential. The scoring function calibrated against crystallographic data on protein-DNA contacts recovered PWMs of various members of widely studied transcription factor families such as p53 and NF-κB. Where it was possible, extensive comparison to experimental binding affinity data and other physical models was made. Although the p50p50, p50RelB, and p50p65 dimers belong to the same family, particular differences in their PWMs were detected, thereby suggesting possibly different in vivo binding modes. The PWMs of p63 and p73 were computed on the basis of homology modeling and their performance was studied using upstream sequences of 85 p53/p73-regulated human genes. Interestingly, about half of the p63 and p73 hits reported by the Match algorithm in the altogether 126 promoters lay more than 2 kb upstream of the corresponding transcription start sites, which deviates from the common assumption that most regulatory sites are located more proximal to the TSS. The fact that in most of the cases the binding sites of p63 and p73 did not overlap with the p53 sites suggests that p63 and p73 could influence the p53 transcriptional activity cooperatively. The newly computed p50p50 PWM recovered 5 more experimental binding sites than the corresponding TRANSFAC matrix, while both PWMs showed comparable receiver operator characteristics.
Conclusions
A novel algorithm was developed to calculate position weight matrices from protein-DNA complex structures. The proposed algorithm was extensively validated against experimental data. The method was further combined with Homology Modeling to obtain PWMs of factors for which crystallographic complexes with DNA are not yet available. The performance of PWMs obtained in this work in comparison to traditionally constructed matrices demonstrates that the structure-based approach presents a promising alternative to experimental determination of transcription factor binding properties.
doi:10.1186/1471-2105-11-225
PMCID: PMC2879287  PMID: 20438625
8.  Dinucleotide Weight Matrices for Predicting Transcription Factor Binding Sites: Generalizing the Position Weight Matrix 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(3):e9722.
Background
Identifying transcription factor binding sites (TFBS) in silico is key in understanding gene regulation. TFBS are string patterns that exhibit some variability, commonly modelled as “position weight matrices” (PWMs). Though convenient, the PWM has significant limitations, in particular the assumed independence of positions within the binding motif; and predictions based on PWMs are usually not very specific to known functional sites. Analysis here on binding sites in yeast suggests that correlation of dinucleotides is not limited to near-neighbours, but can extend over considerable gaps.
Methodology/Principal Findings
I describe a straightforward generalization of the PWM model, that considers frequencies of dinucleotides instead of individual nucleotides. Unlike previous efforts, this method considers all dinucleotides within an extended binding region, and does not make an attempt to determine a priori the significance of particular dinucleotide correlations. I describe how to use a “dinucleotide weight matrix” (DWM) to predict binding sites, dealing in particular with the complication that its entries are not independent probabilities. Benchmarks show, for many factors, a dramatic improvement over PWMs in precision of predicting known targets. In most cases, significant further improvement arises by extending the commonly defined “core motifs” by about 10bp on either side. Though this flanking sequence shows no strong motif at the nucleotide level, the predictive power of the dinucleotide model suggests that the “signature” in DNA sequence of protein-binding affinity extends beyond the core protein-DNA contact region.
Conclusion/Significance
While computationally more demanding and slower than PWM-based approaches, this dinucleotide method is straightforward, both conceptually and in implementation, and can serve as a basis for future improvements.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0009722
PMCID: PMC2842295  PMID: 20339533
9.  Optimized Position Weight Matrices in Prediction of Novel Putative Binding Sites for Transcription Factors in the Drosophila melanogaster Genome 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e68712.
Position weight matrices (PWMs) have become a tool of choice for the identification of transcription factor binding sites in DNA sequences. DNA-binding proteins often show degeneracy in their binding requirement and thus the overall binding specificity of many proteins is unknown and remains an active area of research. Although existing PWMs are more reliable predictors than consensus string matching, they generally result in a high number of false positive hits. Our previous study introduced a promising approach to PWM refinement in which known motifs are used to computationally mine putative binding sites directly from aligned promoter regions using composition of similar sites. In the present study, we extended this technique originally tested on single examples of transcription factors (TFs) and showed its capability to optimize PWM performance to predict new binding sites in the fruit fly genome. We propose refined PWMs in mono- and dinucleotide versions similarly computed for a large variety of transcription factors of Drosophila melanogaster. Along with the addition of many auxiliary sites the optimization includes variation of the PWM motif length, the binding sites location on the promoters and the PWM score threshold. To assess the predictive performance of the refined PWMs we compared them to conventional TRANSFAC and JASPAR sources. The results have been verified using performed tests and literature review. Overall, the refined PWMs containing putative sites derived from real promoter content processed using optimized parameters had better general accuracy than conventional PWMs.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0068712
PMCID: PMC3735551  PMID: 23936309
10.  Optimizing the GATA-3 position weight matrix to improve the identification of novel binding sites 
BMC Genomics  2012;13:416.
Background
The identifying of binding sites for transcription factors is a key component of gene regulatory network analysis. This is often done using position-weight matrices (PWMs). Because of the importance of in silico mapping of tentative binding sites, we previously developed an approach for PWM optimization that substantially improves the accuracy of such mapping.
Results
The present work implements the optimization algorithm applied to the existing PWM for GATA-3 transcription factor and builds a new di-nucleotide PWM. The existing available PWM is based on experimental data adopted from Jaspar. The optimized PWM substantially improves the sensitivity and specificity of the TF mapping compared to the conventional applications. The refined PWM also facilitates in silico identification of novel binding sites that are supported by experimental data. We also describe uncommon positioning of binding motifs for several T-cell lineage specific factors in human promoters.
Conclusion
Our proposed di-nucleotide PWM approach outperforms the conventional mono-nucleotide PWM approach with respect to GATA-3. Therefore our new di-nucleotide PWM provides new insight into plausible transcriptional regulatory interactions in human promoters.
doi:10.1186/1471-2164-13-416
PMCID: PMC3481455  PMID: 22913572
Transcription factor; Binding sites; GATA-3; Human promoter; Position weight matrix; Optimization
11.  Effective transcription factor binding site prediction using a combination of optimization, a genetic algorithm and discriminant analysis to capture distant interactions 
BMC Bioinformatics  2007;8:481.
Background
Reliable transcription factor binding site (TFBS) prediction methods are essential for computer annotation of large amount of genome sequence data. However, current methods to predict TFBSs are hampered by the high false-positive rates that occur when only sequence conservation at the core binding-sites is considered.
Results
To improve this situation, we have quantified the performance of several Position Weight Matrix (PWM) algorithms, using exhaustive approaches to find their optimal length and position. We applied these approaches to bio-medically important TFBSs involved in the regulation of cell growth and proliferation as well as in inflammatory, immune, and antiviral responses (NF-κB, ISGF3, IRF1, STAT1), obesity and lipid metabolism (PPAR, SREBP, HNF4), regulation of the steroidogenic (SF-1) and cell cycle (E2F) genes expression. We have also gained extra specificity using a method, entitled SiteGA, which takes into account structural interactions within TFBS core and flanking regions, using a genetic algorithm (GA) with a discriminant function of locally positioned dinucleotide (LPD) frequencies.
To ensure a higher confidence in our approach, we applied resampling-jackknife and bootstrap tests for the comparison, it appears that, optimized PWM and SiteGA have shown similar recognition performances. Then we applied SiteGA and optimized PWMs (both separately and together) to sequences in the Eukaryotic Promoter Database (EPD). The resulting SiteGA recognition models can now be used to search sequences for BSs using the web tool, SiteGA.
Analysis of dependencies between close and distant LPDs revealed by SiteGA models has shown that the most significant correlations are between close LPDs, and are generally located in the core (footprint) region. A greater number of less significant correlations are mainly between distant LPDs, which spanned both core and flanking regions. When SiteGA and optimized PWM models were applied together, this substantially reduced false positives at least at higher stringencies.
Conclusion
Based on this analysis, SiteGA adds substantial specificity even to optimized PWMs and may be considered for large-scale genome analysis. It adds to the range of techniques available for TFBS prediction, and EPD analysis has led to a list of genes which appear to be regulated by the above TFs.
doi:10.1186/1471-2105-8-481
PMCID: PMC2265442  PMID: 18093302
12.  ScerTF: a comprehensive database of benchmarked position weight matrices for Saccharomyces species 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;40(Database issue):D162-D168.
Saccharomyces cerevisiae is a primary model for studies of transcriptional control, and the specificities of most yeast transcription factors (TFs) have been determined by multiple methods. However, it is unclear which position weight matrices (PWMs) are most useful; for the roughly 200 TFs in yeast, there are over 1200 PWMs in the literature. To address this issue, we created ScerTF, a comprehensive database of 1226 motifs from 11 different sources. We identified a single matrix for each TF that best predicts in vivo data by benchmarking matrices against chromatin immunoprecipitation and TF deletion experiments. We also used in vivo data to optimize thresholds for identifying regulatory sites with each matrix. To correct for biases from different methods, we developed a strategy to combine matrices. These aligned matrices outperform the best available matrix for several TFs. We used the matrices to predict co-occurring regulatory elements in the genome and identified many known TF combinations. In addition, we predict new combinations and provide evidence of combinatorial regulation from gene expression data. The database is available through a web interface at http://ural.wustl.edu/ScerTF. The site allows users to search the database with a regulatory site or matrix to identify the TFs most likely to bind the input sequence.
doi:10.1093/nar/gkr1180
PMCID: PMC3245033  PMID: 22140105
13.  Variable structure motifs for transcription factor binding sites 
BMC Genomics  2010;11:30.
Background
Classically, models of DNA-transcription factor binding sites (TFBSs) have been based on relatively few known instances and have treated them as sites of fixed length using position weight matrices (PWMs). Various extensions to this model have been proposed, most of which take account of dependencies between the bases in the binding sites. However, some transcription factors are known to exhibit some flexibility and bind to DNA in more than one possible physical configuration. In some cases this variation is known to affect the function of binding sites. With the increasing volume of ChIP-seq data available it is now possible to investigate models that incorporate this flexibility. Previous work on variable length models has been constrained by: a focus on specific zinc finger proteins in yeast using restrictive models; a reliance on hand-crafted models for just one transcription factor at a time; and a lack of evaluation on realistically sized data sets.
Results
We re-analysed binding sites from the TRANSFAC database and found motivating examples where our new variable length model provides a better fit. We analysed several ChIP-seq data sets with a novel motif search algorithm and compared the results to one of the best standard PWM finders and a recently developed alternative method for finding motifs of variable structure. All the methods performed comparably in held-out cross validation tests. Known motifs of variable structure were recovered for p53, Stat5a and Stat5b. In addition our method recovered a novel generalised version of an existing PWM for Sp1 that allows for variable length binding. This motif improved classification performance.
Conclusions
We have presented a new gapped PWM model for variable length DNA binding sites that is not too restrictive nor over-parameterised. Our comparison with existing tools shows that on average it does not have better predictive accuracy than existing methods. However, it does provide more interpretable models of motifs of variable structure that are suitable for follow-up structural studies. To our knowledge, we are the first to apply variable length motif models to eukaryotic ChIP-seq data sets and consequently the first to show their value in this domain. The results include a novel motif for the ubiquitous transcription factor Sp1.
doi:10.1186/1471-2164-11-30
PMCID: PMC2824720  PMID: 20074339
14.  Computing expectation values for RNA motifs using discrete convolutions 
BMC Bioinformatics  2005;6:118.
Background
Computational biologists use Expectation values (E-values) to estimate the number of solutions that can be expected by chance during a database scan. Here we focus on computing Expectation values for RNA motifs defined by single-strand and helix lod-score profiles with variable helix spans. Such E-values cannot be computed assuming a normal score distribution and their estimation previously required lengthy simulations.
Results
We introduce discrete convolutions as an accurate and fast mean to estimate score distributions of lod-score profiles. This method provides excellent score estimations for all single-strand or helical elements tested and also applies to the combination of elements into larger, complex, motifs. Further, the estimated distributions remain accurate even when pseudocounts are introduced into the lod-score profiles. Estimated score distributions are then easily converted into E-values.
Conclusion
A good agreement was observed between computed E-values and simulations for a number of complete RNA motifs. This method is now implemented into the ERPIN software, but it can be applied as well to any search procedure based on ungapped profiles with statistically independent columns.
doi:10.1186/1471-2105-6-118
PMCID: PMC1168889  PMID: 15892887
15.  Increasing Coverage of Transcription Factor Position Weight Matrices through Domain-level Homology 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e42779.
Transcription factor-DNA interactions, central to cellular regulation and control, are commonly described by position weight matrices (PWMs). These matrices are frequently used to predict transcription factor binding sites in regulatory regions of DNA to complement and guide further experimental investigation. The DNA sequence preferences of transcription factors, encoded in PWMs, are dictated primarily by select residues within the DNA binding domain(s) that interact directly with DNA. Therefore, the DNA binding properties of homologous transcription factors with identical DNA binding domains may be characterized by PWMs derived from different species. Accordingly, we have implemented a fully automated domain-level homology searching method for identical DNA binding sequences.
By applying the domain-level homology search to transcription factors with existing PWMs in the JASPAR and TRANSFAC databases, we were able to significantly increase coverage in terms of the total number of PWMs associated with a given species, assign PWMs to transcription factors that did not previously have any associations, and increase the number of represented species with PWMs over an order of magnitude. Additionally, using protein binding microarray (PBM) data, we have validated the domain-level method by demonstrating that transcription factor pairs with matching DNA binding domains exhibit comparable DNA binding specificity predictions to transcription factor pairs with completely identical sequences.
The increased coverage achieved herein demonstrates the potential for more thorough species-associated investigation of protein-DNA interactions using existing resources. The PWM scanning results highlight the challenging nature of transcription factors that contain multiple DNA binding domains, as well as the impact of motif discovery on the ability to predict DNA binding properties. The method is additionally suitable for identifying domain-level homology mappings to enable utilization of additional information sources in the study of transcription factors. The domain-level homology search method, resulting PWM mappings, web-based user interface, and web API are publicly available at http://dodoma.systemsbiology.netdodoma.systemsbiology.net.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0042779
PMCID: PMC3428306  PMID: 22952610
16.  An approach to identify over-represented cis-elements in related sequences 
Nucleic Acids Research  2003;31(7):1995-2005.
Computational identification of transcription factor binding sites is an important research area of computational biology. Positional weight matrix (PWM) is a model to describe the sequence pattern of binding sites. Usually, transcription factor binding sites prediction methods based on PWMs require user-defined thresholds. The arbitrary threshold and also the relatively low specificity of the algorithm prevent the result of such an analysis from being properly interpreted. In this study, a method was developed to identify over-represented cis-elements with PWM-based similarity scores. Three sets of closely related promoters were analyzed, and only over- represented motifs with high PWM similarity scores were reported. The thresholds to evaluate the similarity scores to the PWMs of putative transcription factors binding sites can also be automatically determined during the analysis, which can also be used in further research with the same PWMs. The online program is available on the website: http://www.bioinfo.tsinghua.edu.cn/∼zhengjsh/OTFBS/.
PMCID: PMC152803  PMID: 12655017
17.  Tree-Based Position Weight Matrix Approach to Model Transcription Factor Binding Site Profiles 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(9):e24210.
Most of the position weight matrix (PWM) based bioinformatics methods developed to predict transcription factor binding sites (TFBS) assume each nucleotide in the sequence motif contributes independently to the interaction between protein and DNA sequence, usually producing high false positive predictions. The increasing availability of TF enrichment profiles from recent ChIP-Seq methodology facilitates the investigation of dependent structure and accurate prediction of TFBSs. We develop a novel Tree-based PWM (TPWM) approach to accurately model the interaction between TF and its binding site. The whole tree-structured PWM could be considered as a mixture of different conditional-PWMs. We propose a discriminative approach, called TPD (TPWM based Discriminative Approach), to construct the TPWM from the ChIP-Seq data with a pre-existing PWM. To achieve the maximum discriminative power between the positive and negative datasets, the cutoff value is determined based on the Matthew Correlation Coefficient (MCC). The resulting TPWMs are evaluated with respect to accuracy on extensive synthetic datasets. We then apply our TPWM discriminative approach on several real ChIP-Seq datasets to refine the current TFBS models stored in the TRANSFAC database. Experiments on both the simulated and real ChIP-Seq data show that the proposed method starting from existing PWM has consistently better performance than existing tools in detecting the TFBSs. The improved accuracy is the result of modelling the complete dependent structure of the motifs and better prediction of true positive rate. The findings could lead to better understanding of the mechanisms of TF-DNA interactions.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0024210
PMCID: PMC3166302  PMID: 21912677
18.  fdrMotif 
Bioinformatics (Oxford, England)  2008;24(5):629-636.
Motivation
Most de novo motif identification methods optimize the motif model first and then separately test the statistical significance of the motif score. In the first stage, a motif abundance parameter needs to be specified or modeled. In the second stage, a z-score or p-value is used as the test statistic. Error rates under multiple comparisons are not fully considered.
Methodology
We propose a simple but novel approach, fdrMotif, that selects as many binding sites as possible while controlling a user-specified false discovery rate (FDR). Unlike existing iterative methods, fdrMotif combines model optimization (e.g., position weight matrix (PWM)) and significance testing at each step. By monitoring the proportion of binding sites selected in many sets of background sequences, fdrMotif controls the FDR in the original data. The model is then updated using an expectation (E) and maximization (M)-like procedure. We propose a new normalization procedure in the E-step for updating the model. This process is repeated until either the model converges or the number of iterations exceeds a maximum.
Results
Simulation studies suggest that our normalization procedure assigns larger weights to the binding sites than do two other commonly used normalization procedures. Furthermore, fdrMotif requires only a user-specified FDR and an initial PWM. When tested on 542 high confidence experimental p53 binding loci, fdrMotif identified 569 p53 binding sites in 505 (93.2%) sequences. In comparison, MEME identified more binding sites but in fewer ChIP sequences than fdrMotif. When tested on 500 sets of simulated “ChIP” sequences with embedded known p53 binding sites, fdrMotif, compared to MEME, has higher sensitivity with similar positive predictive value. Furthermore, fdrMotif is robust to noise: it selected nearly identical binding sites in data adulterated with 50% added background sequences and the unadulterated data. We suggest that fdrMotif represents an improvement over MEME.
doi:10.1093/bioinformatics/btn009
PMCID: PMC2376047  PMID: 18296465
19.  A Bayesian Search for Transcriptional Motifs 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(11):e13897.
Identifying transcription factor (TF) binding sites (TFBSs) is an important step towards understanding transcriptional regulation. A common approach is to use gaplessly aligned, experimentally supported TFBSs for a particular TF, and algorithmically search for more occurrences of the same TFBSs. The largest publicly available databases of TF binding specificities contain models which are represented as position weight matrices (PWM). There are other methods using more sophisticated representations, but these have more limited databases, or aren't publicly available. Therefore, this paper focuses on methods that search using one PWM per TF. An algorithm, MATCHTM, for identifying TFBSs corresponding to a particular PWM is available, but is not based on a rigorous statistical model of TF binding, making it difficult to interpret or adjust the parameters and output of the algorithm. Furthermore, there is no public description of the algorithm sufficient to exactly reproduce it. Another algorithm, MAST, computes a p-value for the presence of a TFBS using true probabilities of finding each base at each offset from that position. We developed a statistical model, BaSeTraM, for the binding of TFs to TFBSs, taking into account random variation in the base present at each position within a TFBS. Treating the counts in the matrices and the sequences of sites as random variables, we combine this TFBS composition model with a background model to obtain a Bayesian classifier. We implemented our classifier in a package (SBaSeTraM). We tested SBaSeTraM against a MATCHTM implementation by searching all probes used in an experimental Saccharomyces cerevisiae TF binding dataset, and comparing our predictions to the data. We found no statistically significant differences in sensitivity between the algorithms (at fixed selectivity), indicating that SBaSeTraM's performance is at least comparable to the leading currently available algorithm. Our software is freely available at: http://wiki.github.com/A1kmm/sbasetram/building-the-tools.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0013897
PMCID: PMC2987817  PMID: 21124986
20.  The multiple-specificity landscape of modular peptide recognition domains 
Using large scale experimental datasets, the authors show how modular protein interaction domains such as PDZ, SH3 or WW domains, frequently display unexpected multiple binding specificity. The observed multiple specificity leads to new structural insights and accurately predicts new protein interactions.
Modular protein domains interacting with short linear peptides, such as PDZ, SH3 or WW domains, display a rich binding specificity with significant interplay (or correlation) between ligand residues.The binding specificity of these domains is more accurately described with a multiple specificity model.The multiple specificity reveals new structural insights and predicts new protein interactions.
Modular protein domains have a central role in the complex network of signaling pathways that governs cellular processes. Many of them, called peptide recognition domains, bind short linear regions in their target proteins, such as the well-known SH3 or PDZ domains. These domain–peptide interactions are the predominant form of protein interaction in signaling pathways.
Because of the relative simplicity of the interaction, their binding specificity is generally represented using a simple model, analogous to transcription factor binding: the domain binds a short stretch of amino acids and at each position some amino acids are preferred over other ones. Thus, for each position, a probability can be assigned to each amino acid and these probabilities are often grouped into a matrix called position weight matrix (PWM) or position-specific scoring matrix. Such a matrix can then be represented in a highly intuitive manner as a so-called sequence logo (see Figure 1).
A main shortcoming of this specificity model is that, although intuitive and interpretable, it inherently assumes that all residues in the peptide contribute independently to binding. On the basis of statistical analyses of large data sets of peptides binding to PDZ, SH3 and WW domains, we show that for most domains, this is not the case. Indeed, there is complex and highly significant interplay between the ligand residues. To overcome this issue, we develop a computational model that can both take into account such correlations and also preserve the advantages of PWMs, namely its straightforward interpretability.
Briefly, our method detects whether the domain is capable of binding its targets not only with a single specificity but also with multiple specificities. If so, it will determine all the relevant specificities (see Figure 1). This is accomplished by using a machine learning algorithm based on mixture models, and the results can be effectively visualized as multiple sequence logos. In other words, based on experimentally derived data sets of binding peptides, we determine for every domain, in addition to the known specificity, one or more new specificities. As such, we capture more real information, and our model performs better than previous models of binding specificity.
A crucial question is what these new specificities correspond to: are they simply mathematical artifacts coming out of some algorithm or do they represent something we can understand on a biophysical or structural level? Overall, the new specificities provide us with substantial new intuitive insight about the structural basis of binding for these domains. We can roughly identify two cases.
First, we have neighboring (or very close in sequence) amino acids in the ligand that show significant correlations. These usually correspond to amino acids whose side chains point in the same directions and often occupy the same physical space, and therefore can directly influence each other.
In other cases, we observe that multiple specificities found for a single domain are very different from each other. They correspond to different ways that the domain accommodates its binders. Often, conformational changes are required to switch from one binding mode to another. In almost all cases, only one canonical binding mode was previously known, and our analysis enables us to predict several interesting non-canonical ones. Specifically, we discuss one example in detail in Figure 5. In a PDZ domain of DLG1, we identify a novel binding specificity that differs from the canonical one by the presence of an additional tryptophan at the C terminus of the ligand. From a structural point of view, this would require a flexible loop to move out of the way to accommodate this rather large side chain. We find evidence of this predicted new binding mode based on both existing crystal structures and structural modeling.
Finally, our model of binding specificity leads to predictions of many new and previously unknown protein interactions. We validate a number of these using the membrane yeast two-hybrid approach.
In summary, we show here that multiple specificity is a general and underappreciated phenomenon for modular peptide recognition domains and that it leads to substantial new insight into the basis of protein interactions.
Modular protein interaction domains form the building blocks of eukaryotic signaling pathways. Many of them, known as peptide recognition domains, mediate protein interactions by recognizing short, linear amino acid stretches on the surface of their cognate partners with high specificity. Residues in these stretches are usually assumed to contribute independently to binding, which has led to a simplified understanding of protein interactions. Conversely, we observe in large binding peptide data sets that different residue positions display highly significant correlations for many domains in three distinct families (PDZ, SH3 and WW). These correlation patterns reveal a widespread occurrence of multiple binding specificities and give novel structural insights into protein interactions. For example, we predict a new binding mode of PDZ domains and structurally rationalize it for DLG1 PDZ1. We show that multiple specificity more accurately predicts protein interactions and experimentally validate some of the predictions for the human proteins DLG1 and SCRIB. Overall, our results reveal a rich specificity landscape in peptide recognition domains, suggesting new ways of encoding specificity in protein interaction networks.
doi:10.1038/msb.2011.18
PMCID: PMC3097085  PMID: 21525870
binding specificity; peptide recognition domains; PDZ; phage display; residue correlations
21.  Identification of thyroid hormone receptor binding sites in developing mouse cerebellum 
BMC Genomics  2013;14:341.
Background
Thyroid hormones play an essential role in early vertebrate development as well as other key processes. One of its modes of action is to bind to the thyroid hormone receptor (TR) which, in turn, binds to thyroid response elements (TREs) in promoter regions of target genes. The sequence motif for TREs remains largely undefined as does the precise chromosomal location of the TR binding sites. A chromatin immunoprecipitation on microarray (ChIP-chip) experiment was conducted using mouse cerebellum post natal day (PND) 4 and PND15 for the thyroid hormone receptor (TR) beta 1 to map its binding sites on over 5000 gene promoter regions. We have performed a detailed computational analysis of these data.
Results
By analysing a recent spike-in study, the optimal normalization and peak identification approaches were determined for our dataset. Application of these techniques led to the identification of 211 ChIP-chip peaks enriched for TR binding in cerebellum samples. ChIP-PCR validation of 25 peaks led to the identification of 16 true positive TREs. Following a detailed literature review to identify all known mouse TREs, a position weight matrix (PWM) was created representing the classic TRE sequence motif. Various classes of promoter regions were investigated for the presence of this PWM, including permuted sequences, randomly selected promoter sequences, and genes known to be regulated by TH. We found that while the occurrence of the TRE motif is strongly correlated with gene regulation by TH for some genes, other TH-regulated genes do not exhibit an increased density of TRE half-site motifs. Furthermore, we demonstrate that an increase in the rate of occurrence of the half-site motifs does not always indicate the specific location of the TRE within the promoter region. To account for the fact that TR often operates as a dimer, we introduce a novel dual-threshold PWM scanning approach for identifying TREs with a true positive rate of 0.73 and a false positive rate of 0.2. Application of this approach to ChIP-chip peak regions revealed the presence of 85 putative TREs suitable for further in vitro validation.
Conclusions
This study further elucidates TRβ gene regulation in mouse cerebellum, with 211 promoter regions identified to bind to TR. While we have identified 85 putative TREs within these regions, future work will study other mechanisms of action that may mediate the remaining observed TR-binding activity.
doi:10.1186/1471-2164-14-341
PMCID: PMC3716714  PMID: 23701648
22.  BIPAD: A web server for modeling bipartite sequence elements 
BMC Bioinformatics  2006;7:76.
Background
Many dimeric protein complexes bind cooperatively to families of bipartite nucleic acid sequence elements, which consist of pairs of conserved half-site sequences separated by intervening distances that vary among individual sites.
Results
We introduce the Bipad Server [1], a web interface to predict sequence elements embedded within unaligned sequences. Either a bipartite model, consisting of a pair of one-block position weight matrices (PWM's) with a gap distribution, or a single PWM matrix for contiguous single block motifs may be produced. The Bipad program performs multiple local alignment by entropy minimization and cyclic refinement using a stochastic greedy search strategy. The best models are refined by maximizing incremental information contents among a set of potential models with varying half site and gap lengths.
Conclusion
The web service generates information positional weight matrices, identifies binding site motifs, graphically represents the set of discovered elements as a sequence logo, and depicts the gap distribution as a histogram. Server performance was evaluated by generating a collection of bipartite models for distinct DNA binding proteins.
doi:10.1186/1471-2105-7-76
PMCID: PMC1388241  PMID: 16503993
23.  CSI-Tree: a regression tree approach for modeling binding properties of DNA-binding molecules based on cognate site identification (CSI) data 
Nucleic Acids Research  2008;36(10):3171-3184.
The identification and characterization of binding sites of DNA-binding molecules, including transcription factors (TFs), is a critical problem at the interface of chemistry, biology and molecular medicine. The Cognate Site Identification (CSI) array is a high-throughput microarray platform for measuring comprehensive recognition profiles of DNA-binding molecules. This technique produces datasets that are useful not only for identifying binding sites of previously uncharacterized TFs but also for elucidating dependencies, both local and nonlocal, between the nucleotides at different positions of the recognition sites. We have developed a regression tree technique, CSI-Tree, for exploring the spectrum of binding sites of DNA-binding molecules. Our approach constructs regression trees utilizing the CSI data of unaligned sequences. The resulting model partitions the binding spectrum into homogeneous regions of position specific nucleotide effects. Each homogeneous partition is then summarized by a position weight matrix (PWM). Hence, the final outcome is a binding intensity rank-ordered collection of PWMs each of which spans a different region in the binding spectrum. Nodes of the regression tree depict the critical position/nucleotide combinations. We analyze the CSI data of the eukaryotic TF Nkx-2.5 and two engineered small molecule DNA ligands and obtain unique insights into their binding properties. The CSI tree for Nkx-2.5 reveals an interaction between two positions of the binding profile and elucidates how different nucleotide combinations at these two positions lead to different binding affinities. The CSI trees for the engineered DNA ligands exhibit a common preference for the dinucleotide AA in the first two positions, which is consistent with preference for a narrow and relatively flat minor groove. We carry out a reanalysis of these data with a mixture of PWMs approach. This approach is an advancement over the simple PWM model and accommodates position dependencies based on only sequence data. Our analysis indicates that the dependencies revealed by the CSI-Tree are challenging to discover without the actual binding intensities. Moreover, such a mixture model is highly sensitive to the number and length of the sequences analyzed. In contrast, CSI-Tree provides interpretable and concise summaries of the complete recognition profiles of DNA-binding molecules by utilizing binding affinities.
doi:10.1093/nar/gkn057
PMCID: PMC2425502  PMID: 18411210
24.  DBD2BS: connecting a DNA-binding protein with its binding sites 
Nucleic Acids Research  2012;40(Web Server issue):W173-W179.
By binding to short and highly conserved DNA sequences in genomes, DNA-binding proteins initiate, enhance or repress biological processes. Accurately identifying such binding sites, often represented by position weight matrices (PWMs), is an important step in understanding the control mechanisms of cells. When given coordinates of a DNA-binding domain (DBD) bound with DNA, a potential function can be used to estimate the change of binding affinity after base substitutions, where the changes can be summarized as a PWM. This technique provides an effective alternative when the chromatin immunoprecipitation data are unavailable for PWM inference. To facilitate the procedure of predicting PWMs based on protein–DNA complexes or even structures of the unbound state, the web server, DBD2BS, is presented in this study. The DBD2BS uses an atom-level knowledge-based potential function to predict PWMs characterizing the sequences to which the query DBD structure can bind. For unbound queries, a list of 1066 DBD–DNA complexes (including 1813 protein chains) is compiled for use as templates for synthesizing bound structures. The DBD2BS provides users with an easy-to-use interface for visualizing the PWMs predicted based on different templates and the spatial relationships of the query protein, the DBDs and the DNAs. The DBD2BS is the first attempt to predict PWMs of DBDs from unbound structures rather than from bound ones. This approach increases the number of existing protein structures that can be exploited when analyzing protein–DNA interactions. In a recent study, the authors showed that the kernel adopted by the DBD2BS can generate PWMs consistent with those obtained from the experimental data. The use of DBD2BS to predict PWMs can be incorporated with sequence-based methods to discover binding sites in genome-wide studies.
Available at: http://dbd2bs.csie.ntu.edu.tw/, http://dbd2bs.csbb.ntu.edu.tw/, and http://dbd2bs.ee.ncku.edu.tw.
doi:10.1093/nar/gks564
PMCID: PMC3394304  PMID: 22693214
25.  Using ChIPMotifs for De Novo Motif Discovery of OCT4 and ZNF263 Based on ChIP-Based High-Throughput Experiments 
DNA motifs are short sequences varying from 6 to 25 bp and can be highly variable and degenerated. One major approach for predicting transcription factor (TF) binding is using position weight matrix (PWM) to represent information content of regulatory sites; however, when used as the sole means of identifying binding sites suffers from the limited amount of training data available and a high rate of false-positive predictions. ChIPMotifs program is a de novo motif finding tool developed for ChIP-based high-throughput data, and W-ChIPMotifs is a Web application tool for ChIPMotifs. It composes various ab initio motif discovery tools such as MEME, MaMF, Weeder and optimizes the significance of the detected motifs by using bootstrap re-sampling error estimation and a Fisher test. Using these techniques, we determined a PWM for OCT4 which is similar to canonical OCT4 consensus sequence. In a separate study, we also use de novo motif discovery to suggest that ZNF263 binds to a 24-nt site that differs from the motif predicted by the zinc finger code in several positions.
doi:10.1007/978-1-61779-400-1_21
PMCID: PMC4160035  PMID: 22130890
Motif; ChIP; Position weight matrix; OCT4; ZNF263

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