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1.  A signal processing approach for enriched region detection in RNA polymerase II ChIP-seq data 
BMC Bioinformatics  2012;13(Suppl 2):S2.
RNA polymerase II (PolII) is essential in gene transcription and ChIP-seq experiments have been used to study PolII binding patterns over the entire genome. However, since PolII enriched regions in the genome can be very long, existing peak finding algorithms for ChIP-seq data are not adequate for identifying such long regions.
Here we propose an enriched region detection method for ChIP-seq data to identify long enriched regions by combining a signal denoising algorithm with a false discovery rate (FDR) approach. The binned ChIP-seq data for PolII are first processed using a non-local means (NL-means) algorithm for purposes of denoising. Then, a FDR approach is developed to determine the threshold for marking enriched regions in the binned histogram.
We first test our method using a public PolII ChIP-seq dataset and compare our results with published results obtained using the published algorithm HPeak. Our results show a high consistency with the published results (80-100%). Then, we apply our proposed method on PolII ChIP-seq data generated in our own study on the effects of hormone on the breast cancer cell line MCF7. The results demonstrate that our method can effectively identify long enriched regions in ChIP-seq datasets. Specifically, pertaining to MCF7 control samples we identified 5,911 segments with length of at least 4 Kbp (maximum 233,000 bp); and in MCF7 treated with E2 samples, we identified 6,200 such segments (maximum 325,000 bp).
We demonstrated the effectiveness of this method in studying binding patterns of PolII in cancer cells which enables further deep analysis in transcription regulation and epigenetics. Our method complements existing peak detection algorithms for ChIP-seq experiments.
PMCID: PMC3375632  PMID: 22536865
2.  Inference of RNA Polymerase II Transcription Dynamics from Chromatin Immunoprecipitation Time Course Data 
PLoS Computational Biology  2014;10(5):e1003598.
Gene transcription mediated by RNA polymerase II (pol-II) is a key step in gene expression. The dynamics of pol-II moving along the transcribed region influence the rate and timing of gene expression. In this work, we present a probabilistic model of transcription dynamics which is fitted to pol-II occupancy time course data measured using ChIP-Seq. The model can be used to estimate transcription speed and to infer the temporal pol-II activity profile at the gene promoter. Model parameters are estimated using either maximum likelihood estimation or via Bayesian inference using Markov chain Monte Carlo sampling. The Bayesian approach provides confidence intervals for parameter estimates and allows the use of priors that capture domain knowledge, e.g. the expected range of transcription speeds, based on previous experiments. The model describes the movement of pol-II down the gene body and can be used to identify the time of induction for transcriptionally engaged genes. By clustering the inferred promoter activity time profiles, we are able to determine which genes respond quickly to stimuli and group genes that share activity profiles and may therefore be co-regulated. We apply our methodology to biological data obtained using ChIP-seq to measure pol-II occupancy genome-wide when MCF-7 human breast cancer cells are treated with estradiol (E2). The transcription speeds we obtain agree with those obtained previously for smaller numbers of genes with the advantage that our approach can be applied genome-wide. We validate the biological significance of the pol-II promoter activity clusters by investigating cluster-specific transcription factor binding patterns and determining canonical pathway enrichment. We find that rapidly induced genes are enriched for both estrogen receptor alpha (ER) and FOXA1 binding in their proximal promoter regions.
Author Summary
Cells express proteins in response to changes in their environment so as to maintain normal function. An initial step in the expression of proteins is transcription, which is mediated by RNA polymerase II (pol-II). To understand changes in transcription arising due to stimuli it is useful to model the dynamics of transcription. We present a probabilistic model of pol-II transcription dynamics that can be used to compute RNA transcription speed and infer the temporal pol-II activity at the gene promoter. The inferred promoter activity profile is used to determine genes that are responding in a coordinated manner to stimuli and are therefore potentially co-regulated. Model parameters are inferred using data from high-throughput sequencing assays, such as ChIP-Seq and GRO-Seq, and can therefore be applied genome-wide in an unbiased manner. We apply the method to pol-II ChIP-Seq time course data from breast cancer cells stimulated by estradiol in order to uncover the dynamics of early response genes in this system.
PMCID: PMC4022483  PMID: 24830797
3.  RNA Polymerase II Pausing Downstream of Core Histone Genes Is Different from Genes Producing Polyadenylated Transcripts 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e38769.
Recent genome-wide chromatin immunoprecipitation coupled high throughput sequencing (ChIP-seq) analyses performed in various eukaryotic organisms, analysed RNA Polymerase II (Pol II) pausing around the transcription start sites of genes. In this study we have further investigated genome-wide binding of Pol II downstream of the 3′ end of the annotated genes (EAGs) by ChIP-seq in human cells. At almost all expressed genes we observed Pol II occupancy downstream of the EAGs suggesting that Pol II pausing 3′ from the transcription units is a rather common phenomenon. Downstream of EAGs Pol II transcripts can also be detected by global run-on and sequencing, suggesting the presence of functionally active Pol II. Based on Pol II occupancy downstream of EAGs we could distinguish distinct clusters of Pol II pause patterns. On core histone genes, coding for non-polyadenylated transcripts, Pol II occupancy is quickly dropping after the EAG. In contrast, on genes, whose transcripts undergo polyA tail addition [poly(A)+], Pol II occupancy downstream of the EAGs can be detected up to 4–6 kb. Inhibition of polyadenylation significantly increased Pol II occupancy downstream of EAGs at poly(A)+ genes, but not at the EAGs of core histone genes. The differential genome-wide Pol II occupancy profiles 3′ of the EAGs have also been confirmed in mouse embryonic stem (mES) cells, indicating that Pol II pauses genome-wide downstream of the EAGs in mammalian cells. Moreover, in mES cells the sharp drop of Pol II signal at the EAG of core histone genes seems to be independent of the phosphorylation status of the C-terminal domain of the large subunit of Pol II. Thus, our study uncovers a potential link between different mRNA 3′ end processing mechanisms and consequent Pol II transcription termination processes.
PMCID: PMC3372504  PMID: 22701709
4.  ChIPpeakAnno: a Bioconductor package to annotate ChIP-seq and ChIP-chip data 
BMC Bioinformatics  2010;11:237.
Chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) followed by high-throughput sequencing (ChIP-seq) or ChIP followed by genome tiling array analysis (ChIP-chip) have become standard technologies for genome-wide identification of DNA-binding protein target sites. A number of algorithms have been developed in parallel that allow identification of binding sites from ChIP-seq or ChIP-chip datasets and subsequent visualization in the University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC) Genome Browser as custom annotation tracks. However, summarizing these tracks can be a daunting task, particularly if there are a large number of binding sites or the binding sites are distributed widely across the genome.
We have developed ChIPpeakAnno as a Bioconductor package within the statistical programming environment R to facilitate batch annotation of enriched peaks identified from ChIP-seq, ChIP-chip, cap analysis of gene expression (CAGE) or any experiments resulting in a large number of enriched genomic regions. The binding sites annotated with ChIPpeakAnno can be viewed easily as a table, a pie chart or plotted in histogram form, i.e., the distribution of distances to the nearest genes for each set of peaks. In addition, we have implemented functionalities for determining the significance of overlap between replicates or binding sites among transcription factors within a complex, and for drawing Venn diagrams to visualize the extent of the overlap between replicates. Furthermore, the package includes functionalities to retrieve sequences flanking putative binding sites for PCR amplification, cloning, or motif discovery, and to identify Gene Ontology (GO) terms associated with adjacent genes.
ChIPpeakAnno enables batch annotation of the binding sites identified from ChIP-seq, ChIP-chip, CAGE or any technology that results in a large number of enriched genomic regions within the statistical programming environment R. Allowing users to pass their own annotation data such as a different Chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) preparation and a dataset from literature, or existing annotation packages, such as GenomicFeatures and BSgenome, provides flexibility. Tight integration to the biomaRt package enables up-to-date annotation retrieval from the BioMart database.
PMCID: PMC3098059  PMID: 20459804
5.  Temporal ChIP-on-Chip of RNA-Polymerase-II to detect novel gene activation events during photoreceptor maturation 
Molecular Vision  2010;16:252-271.
During retinal development, post-mitotic neural progenitor cells must activate thousands of genes to complete synaptogenesis and terminal maturation. While many of these genes are known, others remain beyond the sensitivity of expression microarray analysis. Some of these elusive gene activation events can be detected by mapping changes in RNA polymerase-II (Pol-II) association around transcription start sites.
High-resolution (35 bp) chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP)-on-chip was used to map changes in Pol-II binding surrounding 26,000 gene transcription start sites during photoreceptor maturation of the mouse neural retina, comparing postnatal age 25 (P25) to P2. Coverage was 10–12 kb per transcription start site, including 2.5 kb downstream. Pol-II-active regions were mapped to the mouse genomic DNA sequence by using computational methods (Tiling Analysis Software-TAS program), and the ratio of maximum Pol-II binding (P25/P2) was calculated for each gene. A validation set of 36 genes (3%), representing a full range of Pol-II signal ratios (P25/P2), were examined with quantitative ChIP assays for transcriptionally active Pol-II. Gene expression assays were also performed for 19 genes of the validation set, again on independent samples. FLT-3 Interacting Zinc-finger-1 (FIZ1), a zinc-finger protein that associates with active promoter complexes of photoreceptor-specific genes, provided an additional ChIP marker to highlight genes activated in the mature neural retina. To demonstrate the use of ChIP-on-chip predictions to find novel gene activation events, four additional genes were selected for quantitative PCR analysis (qRT–PCR analysis); these four genes have human homologs located in unidentified retinal disease regions: Solute carrier family 25 member 33 (Slc25a33), Lysophosphatidylcholine acyltransferase 1 (Lpcat1), Coiled-coil domain-containing 126 (Ccdc126), and ADP-ribosylation factor-like 4D (Arl4d).
ChIP-on-chip Pol-II peak signal ratios >1.8 predicted increased amounts of transcribing Pol-II and increased expression with an estimated 97% accuracy, based on analysis of the validation gene set. Using this threshold ratio, 1,101 genes were predicted to experience increased binding of Pol-II in their promoter regions during terminal maturation of the neural retina. Over 800 of these gene activations were additional to those previously reported by microarray analysis. Slc25a33, Lpcat1, Ccdc126, and Arl4d increased expression significantly (p<0.001) during photoreceptor maturation. Expression of all four genes was diminished in adult retinas lacking rod photoreceptors (Rd1 mice) compared to normal retinas (90% loss for Ccdc126 and Arl4d). For rhodopsin (Rho), a marker of photoreceptor maturation, two regions of maximum Pol-II signal corresponded to the upstream rhodopsin enhancer region and the rhodopsin proximal promoter region.
High-resolution maps of Pol-II binding around transcription start sites were generated for the postnatal mouse retina; which can predict activation increases for a specific gene of interest. Novel gene activation predictions are enriched for biologic functions relevant to vision, neural function, and chromatin regulation. Use of the data set to detect novel activation increases was demonstrated by expression analysis for several genes that have human homologs located within unidentified retinal disease regions: Slc25a33, Lpcat1, Ccdc126, and Arl4d. Analysis of photoreceptor-deficient retinas indicated that all four genes are expressed in photoreceptors. Genome-wide maps of Pol-II binding were developed for visual access in the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) Genome Browser and its eye-centric version EyeBrowse (National Eye Institute-NEI). Single promoter resolution of Pol-II distribution patterns suggest the Rho enhancer region and the Rho proximal promoter region become closely associated with the activated gene’s promoter complex.
PMCID: PMC2822553  PMID: 20161818
6.  dPeak: High Resolution Identification of Transcription Factor Binding Sites from PET and SET ChIP-Seq Data 
PLoS Computational Biology  2013;9(10):e1003246.
Chromatin immunoprecipitation followed by high throughput sequencing (ChIP-Seq) has been successfully used for genome-wide profiling of transcription factor binding sites, histone modifications, and nucleosome occupancy in many model organisms and humans. Because the compact genomes of prokaryotes harbor many binding sites separated by only few base pairs, applications of ChIP-Seq in this domain have not reached their full potential. Applications in prokaryotic genomes are further hampered by the fact that well studied data analysis methods for ChIP-Seq do not result in a resolution required for deciphering the locations of nearby binding events. We generated single-end tag (SET) and paired-end tag (PET) ChIP-Seq data for factor in Escherichia coli (E. coli). Direct comparison of these datasets revealed that although PET assay enables higher resolution identification of binding events, standard ChIP-Seq analysis methods are not equipped to utilize PET-specific features of the data. To address this problem, we developed dPeak as a high resolution binding site identification (deconvolution) algorithm. dPeak implements a probabilistic model that accurately describes ChIP-Seq data generation process for both the SET and PET assays. For SET data, dPeak outperforms or performs comparably to the state-of-the-art high-resolution ChIP-Seq peak deconvolution algorithms such as PICS, GPS, and GEM. When coupled with PET data, dPeak significantly outperforms SET-based analysis with any of the current state-of-the-art methods. Experimental validations of a subset of dPeak predictions from PET ChIP-Seq data indicate that dPeak can estimate locations of binding events with as high as to resolution. Applications of dPeak to ChIP-Seq data in E. coli under aerobic and anaerobic conditions reveal closely located promoters that are differentially occupied and further illustrate the importance of high resolution analysis of ChIP-Seq data.
Author Summary
Chromatin immunoprecipitation followed by high throughput sequencing (ChIP-Seq) is widely used for studying in vivo protein-DNA interactions genome-wide. Current state-of-the-art ChIP-Seq protocols utilize single-end tag (SET) assay which only sequences ends of DNA fragments in the library. Although paired-end tag (PET) sequencing is routinely used in other applications of next generation sequencing, it has not been much adapted to ChIP-Seq. We illustrate both experimentally and computationally that PET sequencing significantly improves the resolution of ChIP-Seq experiments and enables ChIP-Seq applications in compact genomes like Escherichia coli (E. coli). To enable efficient identification using PET ChIP-Seq data, we develop dPeak as a high resolution binding site identification algorithm. dPeak implements probabilistic models for both SET and PET data and facilitates efficient analysis of both data types. Applications of dPeak to deeply sequenced E. coli PET and SET ChIP-Seq data establish significantly better resolution of PET compared to SET sequencing.
PMCID: PMC3798280  PMID: 24146601
7.  Discovering Transcription Factor Binding Sites in Highly Repetitive Regions of Genomes with Multi-Read Analysis of ChIP-Seq Data 
PLoS Computational Biology  2011;7(7):e1002111.
Chromatin immunoprecipitation followed by high-throughput sequencing (ChIP-seq) is rapidly replacing chromatin immunoprecipitation combined with genome-wide tiling array analysis (ChIP-chip) as the preferred approach for mapping transcription-factor binding sites and chromatin modifications. The state of the art for analyzing ChIP-seq data relies on using only reads that map uniquely to a relevant reference genome (uni-reads). This can lead to the omission of up to 30% of alignable reads. We describe a general approach for utilizing reads that map to multiple locations on the reference genome (multi-reads). Our approach is based on allocating multi-reads as fractional counts using a weighted alignment scheme. Using human STAT1 and mouse GATA1 ChIP-seq datasets, we illustrate that incorporation of multi-reads significantly increases sequencing depths, leads to detection of novel peaks that are not otherwise identifiable with uni-reads, and improves detection of peaks in mappable regions. We investigate various genome-wide characteristics of peaks detected only by utilization of multi-reads via computational experiments. Overall, peaks from multi-read analysis have similar characteristics to peaks that are identified by uni-reads except that the majority of them reside in segmental duplications. We further validate a number of GATA1 multi-read only peaks by independent quantitative real-time ChIP analysis and identify novel target genes of GATA1. These computational and experimental results establish that multi-reads can be of critical importance for studying transcription factor binding in highly repetitive regions of genomes with ChIP-seq experiments.
Author Summary
Annotating repetitive regions of genomes experimentally is a challenging task. Chromatin immunoprecipitation followed by high-throughput sequencing (ChIP-seq) provides valuable data for characterizing repetitive regions of genomes in terms of transcription factor binding. Although ChIP-seq technology has been maturing, available ChIP-seq analysis methods and software rely on discarding sequence reads that map to multiple locations on the reference genome (multi-reads), thereby generating a missed opportunity for assessing transcription factor binding to highly repetitive regions of genomes. We develop a computational algorithm that takes multi-reads into account in ChIP-seq analysis. We show with computational experiments that multi-reads lead to significant increase in sequencing depths and identification of binding regions that are otherwise not identifiable when only reads that uniquely map to the reference genome (uni-reads) are used. In particular, we show that the number of binding regions identified can increase up to 36%. We support our computational predictions with independent quantitative real-time ChIP validation of binding regions identified only when multi-reads are incorporated in the analysis of a mouse GATA1 ChIP-seq experiment.
PMCID: PMC3136429  PMID: 21779159
8.  Epigenetic regulation of human cis-natural antisense transcripts 
Nucleic Acids Research  2012;40(4):1438-1445.
Mammalian genomes encode numerous cis-natural antisense transcripts (cis-NATs). The extent to which these cis-NATs are actively regulated and ultimately functionally relevant, as opposed to transcriptional noise, remains a matter of debate. To address this issue, we analyzed the chromatin environment and RNA Pol II binding properties of human cis-NAT promoters genome-wide. Cap analysis of gene expression data were used to identify thousands of cis-NAT promoters, and profiles of nine histone modifications and RNA Pol II binding for these promoters in ENCODE cell types were analyzed using chromatin immunoprecipitation followed by sequencing (ChIP-seq) data. Active cis-NAT promoters are enriched with activating histone modifications and occupied by RNA Pol II, whereas weak cis-NAT promoters are depleted for both activating modifications and RNA Pol II. The enrichment levels of activating histone modifications and RNA Pol II binding show peaks centered around cis-NAT transcriptional start sites, and the levels of activating histone modifications at cis-NAT promoters are positively correlated with cis-NAT expression levels. Cis-NAT promoters also show highly tissue-specific patterns of expression. These results suggest that human cis-NATs are actively transcribed by the RNA Pol II and that their expression is epigenetically regulated, prerequisites for a functional potential for many of these non-coding RNAs.
PMCID: PMC3287164  PMID: 22371288
9.  Integrative genome-wide chromatin signature analysis using finite mixture models 
BMC Genomics  2012;13(Suppl 6):S3.
Regulation of gene expression has been shown to involve not only the binding of transcription factor at target gene promoters but also the characterization of histone around which DNA is wrapped around. Some histone modification, for example di-methylated histone H3 at lysine 4 (H3K4me2), has been shown to bind to promoters and activate target genes. However, no clear pattern has been shown to predict human promoters. This paper proposed a novel quantitative approach to characterize patterns of promoter regions and predict novel and alternative promoters. We utilized high-throughput data generated using chromatin immunoprecipitation methods followed by massively parallel sequencing (ChIP-seq) technology on RNA Polymerase II (Pol-II) and H3K4me2. Common patterns of promoter regions are modeled using a mixture model involving double-exponential and uniform distributions. The fitted model obtained were then used to search for regions displaying similar patterns over the entire genome to find novel and alternative promoters. Regions with high correlations with the common patterns are identified as putative novel promoters. We used this proposed algorithm, RNA-seq data and several transcripts databases to find alternative promoters in MCF7 (normal breast cancer) cell line. We found 7,235 high-confidence regions that display the identified promoter patterns. Of these, 4,167 regions (58%) can be mapped to RefSeq regions. 2,444 regions are in a gene body or overlap with transcripts (non-coding RNAs, ESTs, and transcripts that are predicted by RNA-seq data). Some of these maybe potential alternative promoters. We also found 193 regions that map to enhancer regions (represented by androgen and estrogen receptor binding sites) and other regulatory regions such as CTCF (CCCTC binding factor) and CpG island. Around 5% (431 regions) of these correlated regions do not overlap with any transcripts or regulatory regions suggesting that these might be potential new promoters or markers for other annotation which are currently undiscovered.
PMCID: PMC3481451  PMID: 23134707
10.  Combinatorial epigenetic patterns as quantitative predictors of chromatin biology 
BMC Genomics  2014;15:76.
Chromatin immunoprecipitation followed by deep sequencing (ChIP-seq) is the most widely used method for characterizing the epigenetic states of chromatin on a genomic scale. With the recent availability of large genome-wide data sets, often comprising several epigenetic marks, novel approaches are required to explore functionally relevant interactions between histone modifications. Computational discovery of "chromatin states" defined by such combinatorial interactions enabled descriptive annotations of genomes, but more quantitative approaches are needed to progress towards predictive models.
We propose non-negative matrix factorization (NMF) as a new unsupervised method to discover combinatorial patterns of epigenetic marks that frequently co-occur in subsets of genomic regions. We show that this small set of combinatorial "codes" can be effectively displayed and interpreted. NMF codes enable dimensionality reduction and have desirable statistical properties for regression and classification tasks. We demonstrate the utility of codes in the quantitative prediction of Pol2-binding and the discrimination between Pol2-bound promoters and enhancers. Finally, we show that specific codes can be linked to molecular pathways and targets of pluripotency genes during differentiation.
We have introduced and evaluated a new computational approach to represent combinatorial patterns of epigenetic marks as quantitative variables suitable for predictive modeling and supervised machine learning. To foster widespread adoption of this method we make it available as an open-source software-package – epicode at
PMCID: PMC3922690  PMID: 24472558
11.  Non-canonical protein-DNA interactions identified by ChIP are not artifacts 
BMC Genomics  2013;14:254.
ChIP-chip and ChIP-seq are widely used methods to map protein-DNA interactions on a genomic scale in vivo. Waldminghaus and Skarstad recently reported, in this journal, a modified method for ChIP-chip. Based on a comparison of our previously-published ChIP-chip data for Escherichia coli σ32 with their own data, Waldminghaus and Skarstad concluded that many of the σ32 targets identified in our earlier work are false positives. In particular, we identified many non-canonical σ32 targets that are located inside genes or are associated with genes that show no detectable regulation by σ32. Waldminghaus and Skarstad propose that such non-canonical sites are artifacts, identified due to flaws in the standard ChIP methodology. Waldminghaus and Skarstad suggest specific changes to the standard ChIP procedure that reportedly eliminate the claimed artifacts.
We reanalyzed our published ChIP-chip datasets for σ32 and the datasets generated by Waldminghaus and Skarstad to assess data quality and reproducibility. We also performed targeted ChIP/qPCR for σ32 and an unrelated transcription factor, AraC, using the standard ChIP method and the modified ChIP method proposed by Waldminghaus and Skarstad. Furthermore, we determined the association of core RNA polymerase with disputed σ32 promoters, with and without overexpression of σ32. We show that (i) our published σ32 ChIP-chip datasets have a consistently higher dynamic range than those of Waldminghaus and Skarstad, (ii) our published σ32 ChIP-chip datasets are highly reproducible, whereas those of Waldminghaus and Skarstad are not, (iii) non-canonical σ32 target regions are enriched in a σ32 ChIP in a heat shock-dependent manner, regardless of the ChIP method used, (iv) association of core RNA polymerase with some disputed σ32 target genes is induced by overexpression of σ32, (v) σ32 targets disputed by Waldminghaus and Skarstad are predominantly those that are most weakly bound, and (vi) the modifications to the ChIP method proposed by Waldminghaus and Skarstad reduce enrichment of all protein-bound genomic regions.
The modifications to the ChIP-chip method suggested by Waldminghaus and Skarstad reduce rather than increase the quality of ChIP data. Hence, the non-canonical σ32 targets identified in our previous study are likely to be genuine. We propose that the failure of Waldminghaus and Skarstad to identify many of these σ32 targets is due predominantly to the lower data quality in their study. We conclude that surprising ChIP-chip results are not artifacts to be ignored, but rather indications that our understanding of DNA-binding proteins is incomplete.
PMCID: PMC3738151  PMID: 23586855
ChIP-chip; ChIP-seq; σ32
12.  Comparative study on ChIP-seq data: normalization and binding pattern characterization 
Bioinformatics  2009;25(18):2334-2340.
Motivation: Antibody-based Chromatin Immunoprecipitation assay followed by high-throughput sequencing technology (ChIP-seq) is a relatively new method to study the binding patterns of specific protein molecules over the entire genome. ChIP-seq technology allows scientist to get more comprehensive results in shorter time. Here, we present a non-linear normalization algorithm and a mixture modeling method for comparing ChIP-seq data from multiple samples and characterizing genes based on their RNA polymerase II (Pol II) binding patterns.
Results: We apply a two-step non-linear normalization method based on locally weighted regression (LOESS) approach to compare ChIP-seq data across multiple samples and model the difference using an Exponential-NormalK mixture model. Fitted model is used to identify genes associated with differential binding sites based on local false discovery rate (fdr). These genes are then standardized and hierarchically clustered to characterize their Pol II binding patterns. As a case study, we apply the analysis procedure comparing normal breast cancer (MCF7) to tamoxifen-resistant (OHT) cell line. We find enriched regions that are associated with cancer (P < 0.0001). Our findings also imply that there may be a dysregulation of cell cycle and gene expression control pathways in the tamoxifen-resistant cells. These results show that the non-linear normalization method can be used to analyze ChIP-seq data across multiple samples.
Availability: Data are available at
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
PMCID: PMC2800347  PMID: 19561022
13.  POLYPHEMUS: R package for comparative analysis of RNA polymerase II ChIP-seq profiles by non-linear normalization 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;40(4):e30.
Chromatin immunoprecipitation coupled with massive parallel sequencing (ChIP-seq) is increasingly used to map protein–chromatin interactions at global scale. The comparison of ChIP-seq profiles for RNA polymerase II (PolII) established in different biological contexts, such as specific developmental stages or specific time-points during cell differentiation, provides not only information about the presence/accumulation of PolII at transcription start sites (TSSs) but also about functional features of transcription, including PolII stalling, pausing and transcript elongation. However, annotation and normalization tools for comparative studies of multiple samples are currently missing. Here, we describe the R-package POLYPHEMUS, which integrates TSS annotation with PolII enrichment over TSSs and coding regions, and normalizes signal intensity profiles. Thereby POLYPHEMUS facilitates to extract information about global PolII action to reveal changes in the functional state of genes. We validated POLYPHEMUS using a kinetic study on retinoic acid-induced differentiation and a publicly available data set from a comparative PolII ChIP-seq profiling in Caenorhabditis elegans. We demonstrate that POLYPHEMUS corrects the data sets by normalizing for technical variation between samples and reveal the potential of the algorithm in comparing multiple data sets to infer features of transcription regulation from dynamic PolII binding profiles.
PMCID: PMC3287170  PMID: 22156059
14.  Using ChIP-chip and ChIP-seq to study the regulation of gene expression: genome-wide localization studies reveal widespread regulation of transcription elongation 
Methods (San Diego, Calif.)  2009;48(4):398-408.
Transcription is a sophisticated multi-step process in which RNA polymerase II (Pol II) transcribes a DNA template into RNA in concert with a broad array of transcription initiation, elongation, capping, termination, and histone modifying factors. Recent global analyses of Pol II distribution have indicated that many genes are regulated during the elongation phase, shedding light on a previously underappreciated mechanism for controlling gene expression. Understanding how various factors regulate transcription elongation in living cells has been greatly aided by chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) studies, which can provide spatial and temporal resolution of protein-DNA binding events. The coupling of ChIP with DNA microarray and high-throughput sequencing technologies (ChIP-chip and ChIP-seq) has significantly increased the scope of ChIP studies and genome-wide maps of Pol II or elongation factor binding sites can now be readily produced. However, while ChIP-chip/ChIP-seq data allow for high-resolution localization of protein-DNA binding sites, they are not sufficient to dissect protein function. Here we describe techniques for coupling ChIP-chip/ChIP-seq with genetic, chemical, and experimental manipulation to obtain mechanistic insight from genome-wide protein-DNA binding studies. We have employed these techniques to discern immature promoter-proximal Pol II from productively elongating Pol II, and infer a critical role for the transition between initiation and full elongation competence in regulating development and gene induction in response to environmental signals.
PMCID: PMC3431615  PMID: 19275938
transcription elongation; gene expression; ChIP-chip; ChIP-seq
15.  ChIP-chip versus ChIP-seq: Lessons for experimental design and data analysis 
BMC Genomics  2011;12:134.
Chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) followed by microarray hybridization (ChIP-chip) or high-throughput sequencing (ChIP-seq) allows genome-wide discovery of protein-DNA interactions such as transcription factor bindings and histone modifications. Previous reports only compared a small number of profiles, and little has been done to compare histone modification profiles generated by the two technologies or to assess the impact of input DNA libraries in ChIP-seq analysis. Here, we performed a systematic analysis of a modENCODE dataset consisting of 31 pairs of ChIP-chip/ChIP-seq profiles of the coactivator CBP, RNA polymerase II (RNA PolII), and six histone modifications across four developmental stages of Drosophila melanogaster.
Both technologies produce highly reproducible profiles within each platform, ChIP-seq generally produces profiles with a better signal-to-noise ratio, and allows detection of more peaks and narrower peaks. The set of peaks identified by the two technologies can be significantly different, but the extent to which they differ varies depending on the factor and the analysis algorithm. Importantly, we found that there is a significant variation among multiple sequencing profiles of input DNA libraries and that this variation most likely arises from both differences in experimental condition and sequencing depth. We further show that using an inappropriate input DNA profile can impact the average signal profiles around genomic features and peak calling results, highlighting the importance of having high quality input DNA data for normalization in ChIP-seq analysis.
Our findings highlight the biases present in each of the platforms, show the variability that can arise from both technology and analysis methods, and emphasize the importance of obtaining high quality and deeply sequenced input DNA libraries for ChIP-seq analysis.
PMCID: PMC3053263  PMID: 21356108
16.  A High-Resolution Whole-Genome Map of Key Chromatin Modifications in the Adult Drosophila melanogaster 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(12):e1002380.
Epigenetic research has been focused on cell-type-specific regulation; less is known about common features of epigenetic programming shared by diverse cell types within an organism. Here, we report a modified method for chromatin immunoprecipitation and deep sequencing (ChIP–Seq) and its use to construct a high-resolution map of the Drosophila melanogaster key histone marks, heterochromatin protein 1a (HP1a) and RNA polymerase II (polII). These factors are mapped at 50-bp resolution genome-wide and at 5-bp resolution for regulatory sequences of genes, which reveals fundamental features of chromatin modification landscape shared by major adult Drosophila cell types: the enrichment of both heterochromatic and euchromatic marks in transposons and repetitive sequences, the accumulation of HP1a at transcription start sites with stalled polII, the signatures of histone code and polII level/position around the transcriptional start sites that predict both the mRNA level and functionality of genes, and the enrichment of elongating polII within exons at splicing junctions. These features, likely conserved among diverse epigenomes, reveal general strategies for chromatin modifications.
Author Summary
Just as a genome sequence map is indispensible to genetic studies, an epigenome map is crucial for epigenetic research. This is especially true for a sophisticated genetic model such as Drosophila melanogaster, where the wealth of information on genetics and developmental biology awaits systematic epigenetic interpretation on a whole-genome scale. In this manuscript, we report a high-resolution map of key chromatin modifications in the Drosophila genome constructed by the ChIP–Seq approach. This map is derived from all cell types in the adult Drosophila weighted by their natural abundance. It contains key histone marks, HP1a and RNA polymerase II, mapped at 50-bp resolution throughout the genome and at 5-bp resolution for regulatory sequences of genes. It reveals striking features of chromatin modification and transcriptional regulation shared by major adult Drosophila cell types. We anticipate that this map and the salient chromatin modification landscapes revealed by this map should have broad utility to the fields of epigenetics, developmental biology, and stem cell biology.
PMCID: PMC3240582  PMID: 22194694
17.  Non-targeted transcription factors motifs are a systemic component of ChIP-seq datasets 
Genome Biology  2014;15(7):412.
The global effort to annotate the non-coding portion of the human genome relies heavily on chromatin immunoprecipitation data generated with high-throughput DNA sequencing (ChIP-seq). ChIP-seq is generally successful in detailing the segments of the genome bound by the immunoprecipitated transcription factor (TF), however almost all datasets contain genomic regions devoid of the canonical motif for the TF. It remains to be determined if these regions are related to the immunoprecipitated TF or whether, despite the use of controls, there is a portion of peaks that can be attributed to other causes.
Analyses across hundreds of ChIP-seq datasets generated for sequence-specific DNA binding TFs reveal a small set of TF binding profiles for which predicted TF binding site motifs are repeatedly observed to be significantly enriched. Grouping related binding profiles, the set includes: CTCF-like, ETS-like, JUN-like, and THAP11 profiles. These frequently enriched profiles are termed ‘zingers’ to highlight their unanticipated enrichment in datasets for which they were not the targeted TF, and their potential impact on the interpretation and analysis of TF ChIP-seq data. Peaks with zinger motifs and lacking the ChIPped TF’s motif are observed to compose up to 45% of a ChIP-seq dataset. There is substantial overlap of zinger motif containing regions between diverse TF datasets, suggesting a mechanism that is not TF-specific for the recovery of these regions.
Based on the zinger regions proximity to cohesin-bound segments, a loading station model is proposed. Further study of zingers will advance understanding of gene regulation.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13059-014-0412-4) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4165360  PMID: 25070602
18.  ChIP-Enrich: gene set enrichment testing for ChIP-seq data 
Nucleic Acids Research  2014;42(13):e105.
Gene set enrichment testing can enhance the biological interpretation of ChIP-seq data. Here, we develop a method, ChIP-Enrich, for this analysis which empirically adjusts for gene locus length (the length of the gene body and its surrounding non-coding sequence). Adjustment for gene locus length is necessary because it is often positively associated with the presence of one or more peaks and because many biologically defined gene sets have an excess of genes with longer or shorter gene locus lengths. Unlike alternative methods, ChIP-Enrich can account for the wide range of gene locus length-to-peak presence relationships (observed in ENCODE ChIP-seq data sets). We show that ChIP-Enrich has a well-calibrated type I error rate using permuted ENCODE ChIP-seq data sets; in contrast, two commonly used gene set enrichment methods, Fisher's exact test and the binomial test implemented in Genomic Regions Enrichment of Annotations Tool (GREAT), can have highly inflated type I error rates and biases in ranking. We identify DNA-binding proteins, including CTCF, JunD and glucocorticoid receptor α (GRα), that show different enrichment patterns for peaks closer to versus further from transcription start sites. We also identify known and potential new biological functions of GRα. ChIP-Enrich is available as a web interface ( and Bioconductor package.
PMCID: PMC4117744  PMID: 24878920
19.  BIDCHIPS: bias decomposition and removal from ChIP-seq data clarifies true binding signal and its functional correlates 
Unraveling transcriptional regulatory networks is a central problem in molecular biology and, in this quest, chromatin immunoprecipitation and sequencing (ChIP-seq) technology has given us the unprecedented ability to identify sites of protein-DNA binding and histone modification genome wide. However, multiple systemic and procedural biases hinder harnessing the full potential of this technology. Previous studies have addressed this problem, but a thorough characterization of different, interacting biases on ChIP-seq signals is still lacking.
Here, we present a novel framework where the genome-wide ChIP-seq signal is viewed as being quantifiably influenced by different, measurable sources of bias, which can then be computationally subtracted away. We use a compendium of 123 human ENCODE ChIP-seq datasets to build regression models that tell us how much of a ChIP-seq signal can be attributed to mappability, GC-content, chromatin accessibility, and factors represented in input DNA and IgG controls. When we use the model to separate out these non-binding influences from the ChIP-seq signal, we obtain a purified signal that associates better to TF-DNA-binding motifs than do other measures of peak significance. We also carry out a multiscale analysis that reveals how ChIP-seq signal biases differ across different scales. Finally, we investigate previously reported associations between gene expression and ChIP-seq signals at transcription start sites. We show that our model can be used to discriminate ChIP-seq signals that are truly related to gene expression from those that are merely correlated by virtue of bias—in particular, chromatin accessibility bias, which shows up in ChIP-seq signals and also relates to gene expression.
Our study provides new insights into the behavior of ChIP-seq signal biases and proposes a novel mitigation framework that improves results compared to existing techniques. With ChIP-seq now being the central technology for studying transcriptional regulation, it is most crucial to accurately characterize, quantify, and adjust for the genome-wide effects of biases affecting ChIP-seq. Our study also emphasizes that properly accounting for confounders in ChIP-seq data is of paramount importance for obtaining biologically accurate insights into the workings of the complex regulatory mechanisms in living organisms. R and MATLAB packages implementing the framework can be obtained from
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13072-015-0028-2) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4574076  PMID: 26388941
20.  The NSL Complex Regulates Housekeeping Genes in Drosophila 
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(6):e1002736.
MOF is the major histone H4 lysine 16-specific (H4K16) acetyltransferase in mammals and Drosophila. In flies, it is involved in the regulation of X-chromosomal and autosomal genes as part of the MSL and the NSL complexes, respectively. While the function of the MSL complex as a dosage compensation regulator is fairly well understood, the role of the NSL complex in gene regulation is still poorly characterized. Here we report a comprehensive ChIP–seq analysis of four NSL complex members (NSL1, NSL3, MBD-R2, and MCRS2) throughout the Drosophila melanogaster genome. Strikingly, the majority (85.5%) of NSL-bound genes are constitutively expressed across different cell types. We find that an increased abundance of the histone modifications H4K16ac, H3K4me2, H3K4me3, and H3K9ac in gene promoter regions is characteristic of NSL-targeted genes. Furthermore, we show that these genes have a well-defined nucleosome free region and broad transcription initiation patterns. Finally, by performing ChIP–seq analyses of RNA polymerase II (Pol II) in NSL1- and NSL3-depleted cells, we demonstrate that both NSL proteins are required for efficient recruitment of Pol II to NSL target gene promoters. The observed Pol II reduction coincides with compromised binding of TBP and TFIIB to target promoters, indicating that the NSL complex is required for optimal recruitment of the pre-initiation complex on target genes. Moreover, genes that undergo the most dramatic loss of Pol II upon NSL knockdowns tend to be enriched in DNA Replication–related Element (DRE). Taken together, our findings show that the MOF-containing NSL complex acts as a major regulator of housekeeping genes in flies by modulating initiation of Pol II transcription.
Author Summary
Housekeeping genes are required to support basic cellular functions and are therefore expressed constitutively in all tissues. Although the homeostasis of housekeeping gene expression is vital for cell survival, most research on the transcription initiation has been focused on TATA-box-containing promoters of inducible and developmental genes, while regulatory mechanisms at the TATA-less promoters of housekeeping genes have remained poorly understood. Using genome-wide chromatin binding profiles, we find that the NSL complex, a histone acetyltransferase-containing complex, is bound to the majority of constitutively active gene promoters. We show that NSL-bound genes display specific sets of DNA motifs, well-defined nucleosome free regions, and broad transcription initiation patterns. In addition, we show that the NSL complex regulates the recruitment of the basal transcription machinery to target promoters; more specifically, we can pinpoint its role to the early steps of Pol II recruitment. Interestingly, we also see that NSL-bound genes are most susceptible to Pol II loss after depletion of NSLs when they contain the DNA Replication–related Element (DRE). Taken together, we provide a genome-wide analysis of a chromatin-modifying complex that is globally involved in the regulation of housekeeping gene expression.
PMCID: PMC3375229  PMID: 22723752
21.  High Resolution Models of Transcription Factor-DNA Affinities Improve In Vitro and In Vivo Binding Predictions 
PLoS Computational Biology  2010;6(9):e1000916.
Accurately modeling the DNA sequence preferences of transcription factors (TFs), and using these models to predict in vivo genomic binding sites for TFs, are key pieces in deciphering the regulatory code. These efforts have been frustrated by the limited availability and accuracy of TF binding site motifs, usually represented as position-specific scoring matrices (PSSMs), which may match large numbers of sites and produce an unreliable list of target genes. Recently, protein binding microarray (PBM) experiments have emerged as a new source of high resolution data on in vitro TF binding specificities. PBM data has been analyzed either by estimating PSSMs or via rank statistics on probe intensities, so that individual sequence patterns are assigned enrichment scores (E-scores). This representation is informative but unwieldy because every TF is assigned a list of thousands of scored sequence patterns. Meanwhile, high-resolution in vivo TF occupancy data from ChIP-seq experiments is also increasingly available. We have developed a flexible discriminative framework for learning TF binding preferences from high resolution in vitro and in vivo data. We first trained support vector regression (SVR) models on PBM data to learn the mapping from probe sequences to binding intensities. We used a novel -mer based string kernel called the di-mismatch kernel to represent probe sequence similarities. The SVR models are more compact than E-scores, more expressive than PSSMs, and can be readily used to scan genomics regions to predict in vivo occupancy. Using a large data set of yeast and mouse TFs, we found that our SVR models can better predict probe intensity than the E-score method or PBM-derived PSSMs. Moreover, by using SVRs to score yeast, mouse, and human genomic regions, we were better able to predict genomic occupancy as measured by ChIP-chip and ChIP-seq experiments. Finally, we found that by training kernel-based models directly on ChIP-seq data, we greatly improved in vivo occupancy prediction, and by comparing a TF's in vitro and in vivo models, we could identify cofactors and disambiguate direct and indirect binding.
Author Summary
Transcription factors (TFs) are proteins that bind sites in the non-coding DNA and regulate the expression of targeted genes. Being able to predict the genome-wide binding locations of TFs is an important step in deciphering gene regulatory networks. Historically, there was very limited experimental data on the DNA-binding preferences of most TFs. Computational biologists used known sites to estimate simple binding site motifs, called position-specific scoring matrices, and scan the genome for additional potential binding locations, but this approach often led to many false positive predictions. Here we introduce a machine learning approach to leverage new high resolution data on the binding preferences of TFs, namely, protein binding microarray (PBM) experiments which measure the in vitro binding affinities of TFs with respect to an array of double-stranded DNA probes, and chromatin immunoprecipitation experiments followed by next generation sequencing (ChIP-seq) which measure in vivo genome-wide binding of TFs in a given cell type. We show that by training statistical models on high resolution PBM and ChIP-seq data, we can more accurately represent the subtle DNA binding preferences of TFs and predict their genome-wide binding locations. These results will enable advances in the computational analysis of transcriptional regulation in mammalian genomes.
PMCID: PMC2936517  PMID: 20838582
22.  Proteogenomics analysis reveals specific genomic orientations of distal regulatory regions composed by non-canonical histone variants 
Histone variants play further important roles in DNA packaging and controlling gene expression. However, our understanding about their composition and their functions is limited.
Integrating proteomic and genomic approaches, we performed a comprehensive analysis of the epigenetic landscapes containing the four histone variants H3.1, H3.3, H2A.Z, and macroH2A. These histones were FLAG-tagged in HeLa cells and purified using chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP). By adopting ChIP followed by mass spectrometry (ChIP-MS), we quantified histone post-translational modifications (PTMs) and histone variant nucleosomal ratios in highly purified mononucleosomes. Subsequent ChIP followed by next-generation sequencing (ChIP-seq) was used to map the genome-wide localization of the analyzed histone variants and define their chromatin domains. Finally, we included in our study large datasets contained in the ENCODE database. We newly identified a group of regulatory regions enriched in H3.1 and the histone variant associated with repressive marks macroH2A. Systematic analysis identified both symmetric and asymmetric patterns of histone variant occupancies at intergenic regulatory regions. Strikingly, these directional patterns were associated with RNA polymerase II (PolII). These asymmetric patterns correlated with the enhancer activities measured using global run-on sequencing (GRO-seq) data.
Our studies show that H2A.Z and H3.3 delineate the orientation of transcription at enhancers as observed at promoters. We also showed that enhancers with skewed histone variant patterns well facilitate enhancer activity. Collectively, our study indicates that histone variants are deposited at regulatory regions to assist gene regulation.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13072-015-0005-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4397702  PMID: 25878728
23.  Extragenic Accumulation of RNA Polymerase II Enhances Transcription by RNA Polymerase III 
PLoS Genetics  2007;3(11):e212.
Recent genomic data indicate that RNA polymerase II (Pol II) function extends beyond conventional transcription of primarily protein-coding genes. Among the five snRNAs required for pre-mRNA splicing, only the U6 snRNA is synthesized by RNA polymerase III (Pol III). Here we address the question of how Pol II coordinates the expression of spliceosome components, including U6. We used chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) and high-resolution mapping by PCR to localize both Pol II and Pol III to snRNA gene regions. We report the surprising finding that Pol II is highly concentrated ∼300 bp upstream of all five active human U6 genes in vivo. The U6 snRNA, an essential component of the spliceosome, is synthesized by Pol III, whereas all other spliceosomal snRNAs are Pol II transcripts. Accordingly, U6 transcripts were terminated in a Pol III-specific manner, and Pol III localized to the transcribed gene regions. However, synthesis of both U6 and U2 snRNAs was α-amanitin-sensitive, indicating a requirement for Pol II activity in the expression of both snRNAs. Moreover, both Pol II and histone tail acetylation marks were lost from U6 promoters upon α-amanitin treatment. The results indicate that Pol II is concentrated at specific genomic regions from which it can regulate Pol III activity by a general mechanism. Consequently, Pol II coordinates expression of all RNA and protein components of the spliceosome.
Author Summary
During transcription, RNA polymerases synthesize an RNA copy of a given gene. Human genes are transcribed by either RNA polymerase I, II, or III. Here, we focus on transcription of the U6 gene that encodes a small nuclear RNA (snRNA), a non-coding RNA with unique activities in gene expression. The U6 snRNA is transcribed by RNA polymerase III (Pol III); here we report the surprising finding that RNA polymerase II (Pol II) is important for efficient expression of the U6 snRNA. Interestingly, high concentrations of Pol II have been recently observed on genomic regions that are considered outside of transcribed genes. We localized Pol II to a region upstream of the U6 snRNA gene promoters in living cells. Inhibition of Pol II activity decreased U6 snRNA synthesis and was accompanied by a decrease in Pol II accumulation as well as transcription-activating histone modifications, while Pol III remained bound at U6 genes. Thus, Pol II may promote U6 snRNA transcription by facilitating open chromatin formation. Our results provide insight into the extragenic function of Pol II, which can coordinate the expression of all components of the RNA splicing machinery, including U6 snRNA.
PMCID: PMC2082468  PMID: 18039033
24.  Genome-wide mapping of histone H3 lysine 4 trimethylation in Eucalyptus grandis developing xylem 
BMC Plant Biology  2015;15:117.
Histone modifications play an integral role in plant development, but have been poorly studied in woody plants. Investigating chromatin organization in wood-forming tissue and its role in regulating gene expression allows us to understand the mechanisms underlying cellular differentiation during xylogenesis (wood formation) and identify novel functional regions in plant genomes. However, woody tissue poses unique challenges for using high-throughput chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) techniques for studying genome-wide histone modifications in vivo. We investigated the role of the modified histone H3K4me3 (trimethylated lysine 4 of histone H3) in gene expression during the early stages of wood formation using ChIP-seq in Eucalyptus grandis, a woody biomass model.
Plant chromatin fixation and isolation protocols were optimized for developing xylem tissue collected from field-grown E. grandis trees. A “nano-ChIP-seq” procedure was employed for ChIP DNA amplification. Over 9 million H3K4me3 ChIP-seq and 18 million control paired-end reads were mapped to the E. grandis reference genome for peak-calling using Model-based Analysis of ChIP-Seq. The 12,177 significant H3K4me3 peaks identified covered ~1.5% of the genome and overlapped some 9,623 protein-coding genes and 38 noncoding RNAs. H3K4me3 library coverage, peaking ~600 - 700 bp downstream of the transcription start site, was highly correlated with gene expression levels measured with RNA-seq. Overall, H3K4me3-enriched genes tended to be less tissue-specific than unenriched genes and were overrepresented for general cellular metabolism and development gene ontology terms. Relative expression of H3K4me3-enriched genes in developing secondary xylem was higher than unenriched genes, however, and highly expressed secondary cell wall-related genes were enriched for H3K4me3 as validated using ChIP-qPCR.
In this first genome-wide analysis of a modified histone in a woody tissue, we optimized a ChIP-seq procedure suitable for field-collected samples. In developing E. grandis xylem, H3K4me3 enrichment is an indicator of active transcription, consistent with its known role in sustaining pre-initiation complex formation in yeast. The H3K4me3 ChIP-seq data from this study paves the way to understanding the chromatin landscape and epigenomic architecture of xylogenesis in plants, and complements RNA-seq evidence of gene expression for the future improvement of the E. grandis genome annotation.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12870-015-0499-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4425858  PMID: 25957781
ChIP-seq; H3K4me3; Histone; Secondary cell wall; Xylogenesis; Eucalyptus
25.  ChromaSig: A Probabilistic Approach to Finding Common Chromatin Signatures in the Human Genome 
PLoS Computational Biology  2008;4(10):e1000201.
Computational methods to identify functional genomic elements using genetic information have been very successful in determining gene structure and in identifying a handful of cis-regulatory elements. But the vast majority of regulatory elements have yet to be discovered, and it has become increasingly apparent that their discovery will not come from using genetic information alone. Recently, high-throughput technologies have enabled the creation of information-rich epigenetic maps, most notably for histone modifications. However, tools that search for functional elements using this epigenetic information have been lacking. Here, we describe an unsupervised learning method called ChromaSig to find, in an unbiased fashion, commonly occurring chromatin signatures in both tiling microarray and sequencing data. Applying this algorithm to nine chromatin marks across a 1% sampling of the human genome in HeLa cells, we recover eight clusters of distinct chromatin signatures, five of which correspond to known patterns associated with transcriptional promoters and enhancers. Interestingly, we observe that the distinct chromatin signatures found at enhancers mark distinct functional classes of enhancers in terms of transcription factor and coactivator binding. In addition, we identify three clusters of novel chromatin signatures that contain evolutionarily conserved sequences and potential cis-regulatory elements. Applying ChromaSig to a panel of 21 chromatin marks mapped genomewide by ChIP-Seq reveals 16 classes of genomic elements marked by distinct chromatin signatures. Interestingly, four classes containing enrichment for repressive histone modifications appear to be locally heterochromatic sites and are enriched in quickly evolving regions of the genome. The utility of this approach in uncovering novel, functionally significant genomic elements will aid future efforts of genome annotation via chromatin modifications.
Author Summary
The DNA in eukaryotes is packaged by histones. Interestingly, histones can be marked by a variety of posttranslational modifications, and it has been hypothesized that distinct combinations of histone modifications mark at distinct functional regions of the genome. The study of histone modifications has been aided by the development of high-throughput techniques to map a wide assortment of histone modifications on a global scale. However, because much of our current understanding of the human genome is concentrated on promoters, most studies have only examined histone modifications at these well-defined sites, ignoring the vast majority of the genome. To aid in the discovery of functional elements outside of these well-annotated loci, we develop an unbiased method that searches for commonly occurring histone modification patterns on a global scale without using any annotation information. This method recovers known patterns associated with transcriptional enhancers and promoters. Supporting the histone code hypothesis, we discover that the different functional activities of enhancers are closely associated with the presence of different histone modification patterns. We also discover several novel patterns that likely contain other potential regulatory elements. As the availability of large-scale histone modification data increases, the ability of methods such as the one presented here to concisely describe commonly occurring chromatin signatures, thereby abstracting away irrelevant or redundant data, will become increasingly more critical.
PMCID: PMC2556089  PMID: 18927605

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