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1.  AthaMap, integrating transcriptional and post-transcriptional data 
Nucleic Acids Research  2008;37(Database issue):D983-D986.
The AthaMap database generates a map of predicted transcription factor binding sites (TFBS) for the whole Arabidopsis thaliana genome. AthaMap has now been extended to include data on post-transcriptional regulation. A total of 403 173 genomic positions of small RNAs have been mapped in the A. thaliana genome. These identify 5772 putative post-transcriptionally regulated target genes. AthaMap tools have been modified to improve the identification of common TFBS in co-regulated genes by subtracting post-transcriptionally regulated genes from such analyses. Furthermore, AthaMap was updated to the TAIR7 genome annotation, a graphic display of gene analysis results was implemented, and the TFBS data content was increased. AthaMap is freely available at
PMCID: PMC2686474  PMID: 18842622
2.  AthaMap web tools for database-assisted identification of combinatorial cis-regulatory elements and the display of highly conserved transcription factor binding sites in Arabidopsis thaliana 
Nucleic Acids Research  2005;33(Web Server issue):W397-W402.
The AthaMap database generates a map of cis-regulatory elements for the Arabidopsis thaliana genome. AthaMap contains more than 7.4 × 106 putative binding sites for 36 transcription factors (TFs) from 16 different TF families. A newly implemented functionality allows the display of subsets of higher conserved transcription factor binding sites (TFBSs). Furthermore, a web tool was developed that permits a user-defined search for co-localizing cis-regulatory elements. The user can specify individually the level of conservation for each TFBS and a spacer range between them. This web tool was employed for the identification of co-localizing sites of known interacting TFs and TFs containing two DNA-binding domains. More than 1.8 × 105 combinatorial elements were annotated in the AthaMap database. These elements can also be used to identify more complex co-localizing elements consisting of up to four TFBSs. The AthaMap database and the connected web tools are a valuable resource for the analysis and the prediction of gene expression regulation at .
PMCID: PMC1160156  PMID: 15980498
3.  ‘MicroRNA Targets’, a new AthaMap web-tool for genome-wide identification of miRNA targets in Arabidopsis thaliana 
BioData Mining  2012;5:7.
The AthaMap database generates a genome-wide map for putative transcription factor binding sites for A. thaliana. When analyzing transcriptional regulation using AthaMap it may be important to learn which genes are also post-transcriptionally regulated by inhibitory RNAs. Therefore, a unified database for transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulation will be highly useful for the analysis of gene expression regulation.
To identify putative microRNA target sites in the genome of A. thaliana, processed mature miRNAs from 243 annotated miRNA genes were used for screening with the psRNATarget web server. Positional information, target genes and the psRNATarget score for each target site were annotated to the AthaMap database. Furthermore, putative target sites for small RNAs from seven small RNA transcriptome datasets were used to determine small RNA target sites within the A. thaliana genome.
Putative 41,965 genome wide miRNA target sites and 10,442 miRNA target genes were identified in the A. thaliana genome. Taken together with genes targeted by small RNAs from small RNA transcriptome datasets, a total of 16,600 A. thaliana genes are putatively regulated by inhibitory RNAs. A novel web-tool, ‘MicroRNA Targets’, was integrated into AthaMap which permits the identification of genes predicted to be regulated by selected miRNAs. The predicted target genes are displayed with positional information and the psRNATarget score of the target site. Furthermore, putative target sites of small RNAs from selected tissue datasets can be identified with the new ‘Small RNA Targets’ web-tool.
The integration of predicted miRNA and small RNA target sites with transcription factor binding sites will be useful for AthaMap-assisted gene expression analysis. URL:
PMCID: PMC3410767  PMID: 22800758
Arabidopsis thaliana; AthaMap; MicroRNAs; Small RNAs; Post-transcriptional regulation
4.  AthaMap-assisted transcription factor target gene identification in Arabidopsis thaliana 
The AthaMap database generates a map of potential transcription factor binding sites (TFBS) and small RNA target sites in the Arabidopsis thaliana genome. The database contains sites for 115 different transcription factors (TFs). TFBS were identified with positional weight matrices (PWMs) or with single binding sites. With the new web tool ‘Gene Identification’, it is possible to identify potential target genes for selected TFs. For these analyses, the user can define a region of interest of up to 6000 bp in all annotated genes. For TFBS determined with PWMs, the search can be restricted to high-quality TFBS. The results are displayed in tables that identify the gene, position of the TFBS and, if applicable, individual score of the TFBS. In addition, data files can be downloaded that harbour positional information of TFBS of all TFs in a region between −2000 and +2000 bp relative to the transcription or translation start site. Also, data content of AthaMap was increased and the database was updated to the TAIR8 genome release.
Database URL:
PMCID: PMC3011983  PMID: 21177332
5.  PathoPlant®: a platform for microarray expression data to analyze co-regulated genes involved in plant defense responses 
Nucleic Acids Research  2006;35(Database issue):D841-D845.
Plants react to pathogen attack by expressing specific proteins directed toward the infecting pathogens. This involves the transcriptional activation of specific gene sets. PathoPlant®, a database on plant–pathogen interactions and signal transduction reactions, has now been complemented by microarray gene expression data from Arabidopsis thaliana subjected to pathogen infection and elicitor treatment. New web tools enable identification of plant genes regulated by specific stimuli. Sets of genes co-regulated by multiple stimuli can be displayed as well. A user-friendly web interface was created for the submission of gene sets to be analyzed. This results in a table, listing the stimuli that act either inducing or repressing on the respective genes. The search can be restricted to certain induction factors to identify, e.g. strongly up- or down-regulated genes. Up to three stimuli can be combined with the option of induction factor restriction to determine similarly regulated genes. To identify common cis-regulatory elements in co-regulated genes, a resulting gene list can directly be exported to the AthaMap database for analysis. PathoPlant is freely accessible at .
PMCID: PMC1669748  PMID: 17099232
6.  Internet Resources for Gene Expression Analysis in Arabidopsis thaliana 
Current Genomics  2008;9(6):375-380.
The number of online databases and web-tools for gene expression analysis in Arabidopsis thaliana has increased tremendously during the last years. These resources permit the database-assisted identification of putative cis-regulatory DNA sequences, their binding proteins, and the determination of common cis-regulatory motifs in coregulated genes. DNA binding proteins may be predicted by the type of cis-regulatory motif. Further questions of combinatorial control based on the interaction of DNA binding proteins and the colocalization of cis-regulatory motifs can be addressed. The database-assisted spatial and temporal expression analysis of DNA binding proteins and their target genes may help to further refine experimental approaches. Signal transduction pathways upstream of regulated genes are not yet fully accessible in databases mainly because they need to be manually annotated. This review focuses on the use of the AthaMap and PathoPlant® databases for gene expression regulation analysis and discusses similar and complementary online databases and web-tools. Online databases are helpful for the development of working hypothesis and for designing subsequent experiments.
PMCID: PMC2691667  PMID: 19506727
Bioinformatics; databases; gene expression; plants; transcription; web-server.
7.  AthaMap: an online resource for in silico transcription factor binding sites in the Arabidopsis thaliana genome 
Nucleic Acids Research  2004;32(Database issue):D368-D372.
Gene expression is controlled mainly by the binding of transcription factors to regulatory sequences. To generate a genomic map for regulatory sequences, the Arabidopsis thaliana genome was screened for putative transcription factor binding sites. Using publicly available data from the TRANSFAC database and from publications, alignment matrices for 23 transcription factors of 13 different factor families were used with the pattern search program Patser to determine the genomic positions of more than 2.4 × 106 putative binding sites. Due to the dense clustering of genes and the observation that regulatory sequences are not restricted to upstream regions, the prediction of binding sites was performed for the whole genome. The genomic positions and the underlying data were imported into the newly developed AthaMap database. This data can be accessed by positional information or the Arabidopsis Genome Initiative identification number. Putative binding sites are displayed in the defined region. Data on the matrices used and on the thresholds applied in these screens are given in the database. Considering the high density of sites it will be a valuable resource for generating models on gene expression regulation. The data are available at
PMCID: PMC308752  PMID: 14681436
8.  Niche adaptation by expansion and reprogramming of general transcription factors 
Experimental analysis of TFB family proteins in a halophilic archaeon reveals complex environment-dependent fitness contributions. Gene conversion events among these proteins can generate novel niche adaptation capabilities, a process that may have contributed to archaeal adaptation to extreme environments.
Evolution of archaeal lineages correlate with duplication events in the TFB family.Each TFB is required for adaptation to multiple environments.The relative fitness contributions of TFBs change with environmental context.Changes in the regulation of duplicated TFBs can generate new adaptation capabilities.
The evolutionary success of an organism depends on its ability to continually adapt to changes in the patterns of constant, periodic, and transient challenges within its environment. This process of ‘niche adaptation' requires reprogramming of the organism's environmental response networks by reorganizing interactions among diverse parts including environmental sensors, signal transducers, and transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulators. Gene duplications have been discovered to be one of the principal strategies in this process, especially for reprogramming of gene regulatory networks (GRNs). Whereas eukaryotes require dozens of factors for recruitment of RNA polymerase, archaea require just two general transcription factors (GTFs) that are orthologous to eukaryotic TFIIB (TFB in archaea) and TATA-binding protein (TBP) (Bell et al, 1998). Both of these GTFs have expanded extensively in nearly 50% of all archaea whose genomes have been fully sequenced. The phylogenetic analysis presented in this study reveal lineage-specific expansions of TFBs, suggesting that they might encode functionally specialized gene regulatory programs for the unique environments to which these organisms have adapted. This hypothesis is particularly appealing when we consider that the greatest expansion is observed within the group of halophilic archaea whose habitats are associated with routine and dynamic changes in a number of environmental factors including light, temperature, oxygen, salinity, and ionic composition (Rodriguez-Valera, 1993; Litchfield, 1998).
We have previously demonstrated that variations in the expanded set of TFBs (a through e) in Halobacterium salinarum NRC-1 manifests at the level of physical interactions within and across the two families, their DNA-binding specificity, their differential regulation in varying environments, and, ultimately, on the large-scale segregation of transcription of all genes into overlapping yet distinct sets of functionally related groups (Facciotti et al, 2007). We have extended findings from this earlier study with a systematic survey of the fitness consequences of perturbing the TFB network of H. salinarum NRC-1 across 17 environments. Notably, each TFB conferred fitness in two or more environmental conditions tested, and the relative fitness contributions (see Table I) of the five TFBs varied significantly by environment. From an evolutionary perspective, the relationships among these fitness landscapes reveal that two classes of TFBs (c/g- and f-type) appear to have played an important role in the evolution of halophilic archaea by overseeing regulation of core physiological capabilities in these organisms. TFBs of the other clades (b/d and a/e) seem to have emerged much more recently through gene duplications or horizontal gene transfers (HGTs) and are being utilized for adaptation to specialized environmental conditions.
We also investigated higher-order functional interactions and relationships among the duplicated TFBs by performing competition experiments and by mapping genetic interactions in different environments. This demonstrated that depending on environmental context, the TFBs have strikingly different functional hierarchies and genetic interactions with one another. This is remarkable as it makes each TFB essential albeit at different times in a dynamically changing environment.
In order to understand the process by which such gene family expansions shape architecture and functioning of a GRN, we performed integrated analysis of phylogeny, physical interactions, regulation, and fitness landscapes of the seven TFBs in H. salinarum NRC-1. This revealed that evolution of both their protein-coding sequence and their promoter has been instrumental in the encoding of environment-specific regulatory programs. Importantly, the convergent and divergent evolution of regulation and binding properties of TFBs suggested that, aside from HGT and random mutations, a third plausible (and perhaps most interesting) mechanism for acquiring a novel TFB variant is through gene conversion. To test this hypothesis, we synthesized a novel TFBx by transferring TFBa/e clade-specific residues to a TFBd backbone, transformed this variant under the control of either the TFBd or the TFBe promoter (PtfbD or PtfbE) into three different host genetic backgrounds (Δura3 (parent), ΔtfbD, and ΔtfbE), and analyzed fitness and gene expression patterns during growth at 25 and 37°C. This showed that gene conversion events spanning the coding sequence and the promoter, environmental context, and genetic background of the host are all extremely influential in the functional integration of a TFB into the GRN. Importantly, this analysis suggested that altering the regulation of an existing set of expanded TFBs might be an efficient mechanism to reprogram the GRN to rapidly generate novel niche adaptation capability. We have confirmed this experimentally by increasing fitness merely by moving tfbE to PtfbD control, and by generating a completely novel phenotype (biofilm-like appearance) by overexpression of tfbE.
Altogether this study clearly demonstrates that archaea can rapidly generate novel niche adaptation programs by simply altering regulation of duplicated TFBs. This is significant because expansions in the TFB family is widespread in archaea, a class of organisms that not only represent 20% of biomass on earth but are also known to have colonized some of the most extreme environments (DeLong and Pace, 2001). This strategy for niche adaptation is further expanded through interactions of the multiple TFBs with members of other expanded TF families such as TBPs (Facciotti et al, 2007) and sequence-specific regulators (e.g. Lrp family (Peeters and Charlier, 2010)). This is analogous to combinatorial solutions for other complex biological problems such as recognition of pathogens by Toll-like receptors (Roach et al, 2005), generation of antibody diversity by V(D)J recombination (Early et al, 1980), and recognition and processing of odors (Malnic et al, 1999).
Numerous lineage-specific expansions of the transcription factor B (TFB) family in archaea suggests an important role for expanded TFBs in encoding environment-specific gene regulatory programs. Given the characteristics of hypersaline lakes, the unusually large numbers of TFBs in halophilic archaea further suggests that they might be especially important in rapid adaptation to the challenges of a dynamically changing environment. Motivated by these observations, we have investigated the implications of TFB expansions by correlating sequence variations, regulation, and physical interactions of all seven TFBs in Halobacterium salinarum NRC-1 to their fitness landscapes, functional hierarchies, and genetic interactions across 2488 experiments covering combinatorial variations in salt, pH, temperature, and Cu stress. This systems analysis has revealed an elegant scheme in which completely novel fitness landscapes are generated by gene conversion events that introduce subtle changes to the regulation or physical interactions of duplicated TFBs. Based on these insights, we have introduced a synthetically redesigned TFB and altered the regulation of existing TFBs to illustrate how archaea can rapidly generate novel phenotypes by simply reprogramming their TFB regulatory network.
PMCID: PMC3261711  PMID: 22108796
evolution by gene family expansion; fitness; niche adaptation; reprogramming of gene regulatory network; transcription factor B
9.  Evolutionary rates and patterns for human transcription factor binding sites derived from repetitive DNA 
BMC Genomics  2008;9:226.
The majority of human non-protein-coding DNA is made up of repetitive sequences, mainly transposable elements (TEs). It is becoming increasingly apparent that many of these repetitive DNA sequence elements encode gene regulatory functions. This fact has important evolutionary implications, since repetitive DNA is the most dynamic part of the genome. We set out to assess the evolutionary rate and pattern of experimentally characterized human transcription factor binding sites (TFBS) that are derived from repetitive versus non-repetitive DNA to test whether repeat-derived TFBS are in fact rapidly evolving. We also evaluated the position-specific patterns of variation among TFBS to look for signs of functional constraint on TFBS derived from repetitive and non-repetitive DNA.
We found numerous experimentally characterized TFBS in the human genome, 7–10% of all mapped sites, which are derived from repetitive DNA sequences including simple sequence repeats (SSRs) and TEs. TE-derived TFBS sequences are far less conserved between species than TFBS derived from SSRs and non-repetitive DNA. Despite their rapid evolution, several lines of evidence indicate that TE-derived TFBS are functionally constrained. First of all, ancient TE families, such as MIR and L2, are enriched for TFBS relative to younger families like Alu and L1. Secondly, functionally important positions in TE-derived TFBS, specifically those residues thought to physically interact with their cognate protein binding factors (TF), are more evolutionarily conserved than adjacent TFBS positions. Finally, TE-derived TFBS show position-specific patterns of sequence variation that are highly distinct from random patterns and similar to the variation seen for non-repeat derived sequences of the same TFBS.
The abundance of experimentally characterized human TFBS that are derived from repetitive DNA speaks to the substantial regulatory effects that this class of sequence has on the human genome. The unique evolutionary properties of repeat-derived TFBS are perhaps even more intriguing. TE-derived TFBS in particular, while clearly functionally constrained, evolve extremely rapidly relative to non-repeat derived sites. Such rapidly evolving TFBS are likely to confer species-specific regulatory phenotypes, i.e. divergent expression patterns, on the human evolutionary lineage. This result has practical implications with respect to the widespread use of evolutionary conservation as a surrogate for functionally relevant non-coding DNA. Most TE-derived TFBS would be missed using the kinds of sequence conservation-based screens, such as phylogenetic footprinting, that are used to help characterize non-coding DNA. Thus, the very TFBS that are most likely to yield human-specific characteristics will be neglected by the comparative genomic techniques that are currently de rigeur for the identification of novel regulatory sites.
PMCID: PMC2397414  PMID: 18485226
10.  The study of Nickel Resistant Bacteria (NiRB) isolated from wastewaters polluted with different industrial sources 
Pollution due to the heavy metals is a problem that may have negative consequences on the hydrosphere. One of the best procedures in removing the toxic metals from the environment is using metal resistant bacteria.
In the present study eight nickel resistant bacteria were isolated from industrial wastewaters. Three of them were selected as the most resistant based on their Maximum tolerable concentration (8, 16 and 24 mM Ni2+). Their identification was done according to morphological, biochemical characteristics and 16SrDNA gene sequencing and they were identified as Cupriavidus sp ATHA3, Klebsiella oxytoca ATHA6 and Methylobacterium sp ATHA7. The accession numbers assigned to ATHA3, ATHA6 and ATHA7 strains are JX120152, JX196648 and JX457333 respectively. The Growth rate of the most resistant isolate, Klebsiella oxytoca strain ATHA6, in the presence of Ni2+ and the reduction in Ni2+ concentration was revealed that K oxytoca ATHA6 could decrease 83 mg/mL of nickel from the medium after 3 days.
It can be concluded that the identified Ni resistant bacteria could be valuable for the bioremediation of Ni polluted waste water and sewage.
PMCID: PMC3931474  PMID: 24475932
Nickel resistant bacteria (NiRB); Maximum tolerance concentration; Multiple metal resistance determination; 16SrDNA; Wastewater
11.  Microarray Profiling of Phage-Display Selections for Rapid Mapping of Transcription Factor–DNA Interactions 
PLoS Genetics  2009;5(4):e1000449.
Modern computational methods are revealing putative transcription-factor (TF) binding sites at an extraordinary rate. However, the major challenge in studying transcriptional networks is to map these regulatory element predictions to the protein transcription factors that bind them. We have developed a microarray-based profiling of phage-display selection (MaPS) strategy that allows rapid and global survey of an organism's proteome for sequence-specific interactions with such putative DNA regulatory elements. Application to a variety of known yeast TF binding sites successfully identified the cognate TF from the background of a complex whole-proteome library. These factors contain DNA-binding domains from diverse families, including Myb, TEA, MADS box, and C2H2 zinc-finger. Using MaPS, we identified Dot6 as a trans-active partner of the long-predicted orphan yeast element Polymerase A & C (PAC). MaPS technology should enable rapid and proteome-scale study of bi-molecular interactions within transcriptional networks.
Author Summary
Specific interactions between protein transcription factors (TFs) and their DNA recognition sites are central to the regulation of gene expression. Inter-species conservation of these TF binding sites (TFBS), and their statistical enrichment in sets of co-expressed genes, facilitates their large-scale prediction through computational sequence analysis. A major challenge in characterizing these putative TFBS is the identification of the proteins that bind them. We have developed a new approach to this problem by expressing random genomically encoded protein fragments as fusions to the capsid of bacteriophage T7. We select this diverse phage-display “library” for binding surface-immobilized instances of the TFBS in the form of short double-stranded DNA. This in vitro selection strategy leads to the enrichment of phage whose capsid-fusion peptides interact with the specific DNA sequence. Because each phage carries the DNA encoding the peptide fusion, the identity of the enriched phage can be determined through population-level PCR amplification of DNA inserts and their hybridization to DNA microarrays. Here, we show that this technology efficiently reveals the identity of proteins that bind known and novel predicted regulatory elements. Its application to a predicted yeast element (PAC) reveals Dot6 as one of its interaction partners, both in vitro and within the yeast nucleus.
PMCID: PMC2659770  PMID: 19360118
12.  Assessment of clusters of transcription factor binding sites in relationship to human promoter, CpG islands and gene expression 
BMC Genomics  2004;5:16.
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.
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.
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.
PMCID: PMC375527  PMID: 15053842
promoter; tissue-specific gene expression; position weight matrix; regulatory motif
13.  Integrating bioinformatic resources to predict transcription factors interacting with cis-sequences conserved in co-regulated genes 
BMC Genomics  2014;15:317.
Using motif detection programs it is fairly straightforward to identify conserved cis-sequences in promoters of co-regulated genes. In contrast, the identification of the transcription factors (TFs) interacting with these cis-sequences is much more elaborate. To facilitate this, we explore the possibility of using several bioinformatic and experimental approaches for TF identification. This starts with the selection of co-regulated gene sets and leads first to the prediction and then to the experimental validation of TFs interacting with cis-sequences conserved in the promoters of these co-regulated genes.
Using the PathoPlant database, 32 up-regulated gene groups were identified with microarray data for drought-responsive gene expression from Arabidopsis thaliana. Application of the binding site estimation suite of tools (BEST) discovered 179 conserved sequence motifs within the corresponding promoters. Using the STAMP web-server, 49 sequence motifs were classified into 7 motif families for which similarities with known cis-regulatory sequences were identified. All motifs were subjected to a footprintDB analysis to predict interacting DNA binding domains from plant TF families. Predictions were confirmed by using a yeast-one-hybrid approach to select interacting TFs belonging to the predicted TF families. TF-DNA interactions were further experimentally validated in yeast and with a Physcomitrella patens transient expression system, leading to the discovery of several novel TF-DNA interactions.
The present work demonstrates the successful integration of several bioinformatic resources with experimental approaches to predict and validate TFs interacting with conserved sequence motifs in co-regulated genes.
PMCID: PMC4234446  PMID: 24773781
Databases; Arabidopsis thaliana; Physcomitrella patens; Yeast one-hybrid; Microarray; Transcription factor; cis-element
14.  Identifying Functional Transcription Factor Binding Sites in Yeast by Considering Their Positional Preference in the Promoters 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e83791.
Transcription factor binding site (TFBS) identification plays an important role in deciphering gene regulatory codes. With comprehensive knowledge of TFBSs, one can understand molecular mechanisms of gene regulation. In the recent decades, various computational approaches have been proposed to predict TFBSs in the genome. The TFBS dataset of a TF generated by each algorithm is a ranked list of predicted TFBSs of that TF, where top ranked TFBSs are statistically significant ones. However, whether these statistically significant TFBSs are functional (i.e. biologically relevant) is still unknown. Here we develop a post-processor, called the functional propensity calculator (FPC), to assign a functional propensity to each TFBS in the existing computationally predicted TFBS datasets. It is known that functional TFBSs reveal strong positional preference towards the transcriptional start site (TSS). This motivates us to take TFBS position relative to the TSS as the key idea in building our FPC. Based on our calculated functional propensities, the TFBSs of a TF in the original TFBS dataset could be reordered, where top ranked TFBSs are now the ones with high functional propensities. To validate the biological significance of our results, we perform three published statistical tests to assess the enrichment of Gene Ontology (GO) terms, the enrichment of physical protein-protein interactions, and the tendency of being co-expressed. The top ranked TFBSs in our reordered TFBS dataset outperform the top ranked TFBSs in the original TFBS dataset, justifying the effectiveness of our post-processor in extracting functional TFBSs from the original TFBS dataset. More importantly, assigning functional propensities to putative TFBSs enables biologists to easily identify which TFBSs in the promoter of interest are likely to be biologically relevant and are good candidates to do further detailed experimental investigation. The FPC is implemented as a web tool at
PMCID: PMC3873331  PMID: 24386279
15.  Genome-wide transcription factor binding site/promoter databases for the analysis of gene sets and co-occurrence of transcription factor binding motifs 
BMC Genomics  2010;11:145.
The use of global gene expression profiling is a well established approach to understand biological processes. One of the major goals of these investigations is to identify sets of genes with similar expression patterns. Such gene signatures may be very informative and reveal new aspects of particular biological processes. A logical and systematic next step is to reduce the identified gene signatures to the regulatory components that induce the relevant gene expression changes. A central issue in this context is to identify transcription factors, or transcription factor binding sites (TFBS), likely to be of importance for the expression of the gene signatures.
We develop a strategy that efficiently produces TFBS/promoter databases based on user-defined criteria. The resulting databases constitute all genes in the Santa Cruz database and the positions for all TFBS provided by the user as position weight matrices. These databases are then used for two purposes, to identify significant TFBS in the promoters in sets of genes and to identify clusters of co-occurring TFBS. We use two criteria for significance, significantly enriched TFBS in terms of total number of binding sites for the promoters, and significantly present TFBS in terms of the fraction of promoters with binding sites. Significant TFBS are identified by a re-sampling procedure in which the query gene set is compared with typically 105 gene lists of similar size randomly drawn from the TFBS/promoter database. We apply this strategy to a large number of published ChIP-Chip data sets and show that the proposed approach faithfully reproduces ChIP-Chip results. The strategy also identifies relevant TFBS when analyzing gene signatures obtained from the MSigDB database. In addition, we show that several TFBS are highly correlated and that co-occurring TFBS define functionally related sets of genes.
The presented approach of promoter analysis faithfully reproduces the results from several ChIP-Chip and MigDB derived gene sets and hence may prove to be an important method in the analysis of gene signatures obtained through ChIP-Chip or global gene expression experiments. We show that TFBS are organized in clusters of co-occurring TFBS that together define highly coherent sets of genes.
PMCID: PMC2841680  PMID: 20193056
16.  Identifying synonymous regulatory elements in vertebrate genomes 
Nucleic Acids Research  2005;33(Web Server issue):W403-W407.
Synonymous gene regulation, defined by regulatory elements driving shared temporal and/or spatial aspects of gene expression, is most probably predicated on genomic elements that contain similar modules of certain transcription factor binding sites (TFBS). We have developed a method to scan vertebrate genomes for evolutionary conserved modules of TFBS in a predefined configuration, and created a tool, named SynoR that identifies synonymous regulatory elements (SREs) in vertebrate genomes. SynoR performs de novo identification of SREs utilizing known patterns of TFBS in active regulatory elements (REs) as seeds for genome scans. Layers of multiple-species conservation allow the use of differential phylogenetic sequence conservation filters in search of SREs and the results are displayed such as to provide an extensive annotation of the genes containing the detected REs. Gene Ontology categories are utilized to further functionally classify the identified genes, and integrated GNF Expression Atlas 2 data allow the cataloging of tissue-specificities of the predicted SREs. SynoR is publicly available at .
PMCID: PMC1160227  PMID: 15980499
17.  TranscriptomeBrowser 3.0: introducing a new compendium of molecular interactions and a new visualization tool for the study of gene regulatory networks 
BMC Bioinformatics  2012;13:19.
Deciphering gene regulatory networks by in silico approaches is a crucial step in the study of the molecular perturbations that occur in diseases. The development of regulatory maps is a tedious process requiring the comprehensive integration of various evidences scattered over biological databases. Thus, the research community would greatly benefit from having a unified database storing known and predicted molecular interactions. Furthermore, given the intrinsic complexity of the data, the development of new tools offering integrated and meaningful visualizations of molecular interactions is necessary to help users drawing new hypotheses without being overwhelmed by the density of the subsequent graph.
We extend the previously developed TranscriptomeBrowser database with a set of tables containing 1,594,978 human and mouse molecular interactions. The database includes: (i) predicted regulatory interactions (computed by scanning vertebrate alignments with a set of 1,213 position weight matrices), (ii) potential regulatory interactions inferred from systematic analysis of ChIP-seq experiments, (iii) regulatory interactions curated from the literature, (iv) predicted post-transcriptional regulation by micro-RNA, (v) protein kinase-substrate interactions and (vi) physical protein-protein interactions. In order to easily retrieve and efficiently analyze these interactions, we developed In-teractomeBrowser, a graph-based knowledge browser that comes as a plug-in for Transcriptome-Browser. The first objective of InteractomeBrowser is to provide a user-friendly tool to get new insight into any gene list by providing a context-specific display of putative regulatory and physical interactions. To achieve this, InteractomeBrowser relies on a "cell compartments-based layout" that makes use of a subset of the Gene Ontology to map gene products onto relevant cell compartments. This layout is particularly powerful for visual integration of heterogeneous biological information and is a productive avenue in generating new hypotheses. The second objective of InteractomeBrowser is to fill the gap between interaction databases and dynamic modeling. It is thus compatible with the network analysis software Cytoscape and with the Gene Interaction Network simulation software (GINsim). We provide examples underlying the benefits of this visualization tool for large gene set analysis related to thymocyte differentiation.
The InteractomeBrowser plugin is a powerful tool to get quick access to a knowledge database that includes both predicted and validated molecular interactions. InteractomeBrowser is available through the TranscriptomeBrowser framework and can be found at: Our database is updated on a regular basis.
PMCID: PMC3395838  PMID: 22292669
18.  Charting a dynamic DNA methylation landscape of the human genome 
Nature  2013;500(7463):10.1038/nature12433.
DNA methylation is a defining feature of mammalian cellular identity and essential for normal development1,2. Most cell types, except germ cells and pre-implantation embryos3–5, display relatively stable DNA methylation patterns with 70–80% of all CpGs being methylated6. Despite recent advances we still have a too limited understanding of when, where and how many CpGs participate in genomic regulation. Here we report the in depth analysis of 42 whole genome bisulfite sequencing (WGBS) data sets across 30 diverse human cell and tissue types. We observe dynamic regulation for only 21.8% of autosomal CpGs within a normal developmental context, a majority of which are distal to transcription start sites. These dynamic CpGs co-localize with gene regulatory elements, particularly enhancers and transcription factor binding sites (TFBS), which allow identification of key lineage specific regulators. In addition, differentially methylated regions (DMRs) often harbor SNPs associated with cell type related diseases as determined by GWAS. The results also highlight the general inefficiency of WGBS as 70–80% of the sequencing reads across these data sets provided little or no relevant information regarding CpG methylation. To further demonstrate the utility of our DMR set, we use it to classify unknown samples and identify representative signature regions that recapitulate major DNA methylation dynamics. In summary, although in theory every CpG can change its methylation state, our results suggest that only a fraction does so as part of coordinated regulatory programs. Therefore our selected DMRs can serve as a starting point to help guide novel, more effective reduced representation approaches to capture the most informative fraction of CpGs as well as further pinpoint putative regulatory elements.
PMCID: PMC3821869  PMID: 23925113
19.  Temporal and functional profile of the transcriptional regulatory network in the early regenerative response to partial hepatectomy in the rat 
BMC Genomics  2008;9:527.
The goal of these studies was to characterize the transcriptional network regulating changes in gene expression in the remnant liver of the rat after 70% partial hepatectomy (PHx) during the early phase response including the transition of hepatocytes from the quiescent (G0) state and the onset of the G1 phase of the cell cycle.
The transcriptome of remnant livers was monitored at 1, 2, 4, and 6 hours after PHx using cDNA microarrays. Differentially regulated genes were grouped into six clusters according their temporal expression profiles. Promoter regions of genes in these clusters were examined for shared transcription factor binding sites (TFBS) by comparing enrichment of each TFBS relative to a reference set using the Promoter Analysis and Interaction Network Toolset (PAINT).
Analysis of the gene expression time series data using ANOVA resulted in a total of 309 genes significantly up- or down-regulated at any of the four time points at a 20% FDR threshold. Sham-operated animals showed no significant differential expression. A subset of the differentially expressed genes was validated using quantitative RT-PCR. Distinct sets of TFBS could be identified that were significantly enriched in each one of the different temporal gene expression clusters. These included binding sites for transcription factors that had previously been recognized as contributing to the onset of regeneration, including NF-κB, C/EBP, HNF-1, CREB, as well as factors, such as ATF, AP-2, LEF-1, GATA and PAX-6, that had not yet been recognized to be involved in this process. A subset of these candidate TFBS was validated by measuring activation of corresponding transcription factors (HNF-1, NK-κB, CREB, C/EBP-α and C/EBP-β, GATA-1, AP-2, PAX-6) in nuclear extracts from the remnant livers.
This analysis revealed multiple candidate transcription factors activated in the remnant livers, some known to be involved in the early phase of liver regeneration, and several not previously identified. The study describes the predominant temporal and functional elements to which these factors contribute and demonstrates the potential of this novel approach to define the functional correlates of the transcriptional regulatory network driving the early response to partial hepatectomy.
PMCID: PMC2613928  PMID: 18990226
20.  Tracing the Evolution of Lineage-Specific Transcription Factor Binding Sites in a Birth-Death Framework 
PLoS Computational Biology  2014;10(8):e1003771.
Changes in cis-regulatory element composition that result in novel patterns of gene expression are thought to be a major contributor to the evolution of lineage-specific traits. Although transcription factor binding events show substantial variation across species, most computational approaches to study regulatory elements focus primarily upon highly conserved sites, and rely heavily upon multiple sequence alignments. However, sequence conservation based approaches have limited ability to detect lineage-specific elements that could contribute to species-specific traits. In this paper, we describe a novel framework that utilizes a birth-death model to trace the evolution of lineage-specific binding sites without relying on detailed base-by-base cross-species alignments. Our model was applied to analyze the evolution of binding sites based on the ChIP-seq data for six transcription factors (GATA1, SOX2, CTCF, MYC, MAX, ETS1) along the lineage toward human after human-mouse common ancestor. We estimate that a substantial fraction of binding sites (∼58–79% for each factor) in humans have origins since the divergence with mouse. Over 15% of all binding sites are unique to hominids. Such elements are often enriched near genes associated with specific pathways, and harbor more common SNPs than older binding sites in the human genome. These results support the ability of our method to identify lineage-specific regulatory elements and help understand their roles in shaping variation in gene regulation across species.
Author Summary
Recent experimental studies showed that the evolution of transcription factor binding sites (TFBS) is highly dynamic, with sites differing a great deal even between closely related mammalian species. Despite the substantial experimental evidence for rapid divergence of regulatory protein-binding events across species, computational methods designed to analyze regulatory elements evolution have focused primarily on phylogenetic footprinting approaches, in which putative functional regulatory elements are identified according to strong sequence conservation. Cross-species comparisons of non-coding sequences are limited in their ability to fully understand the evolution of regulatory sequences, particularly in cases where the elements are selected for novelty or species-specific. We have developed a novel framework to reconstruct the history of lineage-specific TFBS and showed that large amount of TFBS in human were born after human-mouse divergence. These elements also have distinct biological implications as compared to more ancient ones. This method can help understand the roles of lineage-specific TFBS in shaping gene regulation across different species.
PMCID: PMC4140645  PMID: 25144359
21.  ‘In silico expression analysis’, a novel PathoPlant web tool to identify abiotic and biotic stress conditions associated with specific cis-regulatory sequences 
Using bioinformatics, putative cis-regulatory sequences can be easily identified using pattern recognition programs on promoters of specific gene sets. The abundance of predicted cis-sequences is a major challenge to associate these sequences with a possible function in gene expression regulation. To identify a possible function of the predicted cis-sequences, a novel web tool designated ‘in silico expression analysis’ was developed that correlates submitted cis-sequences with gene expression data from Arabidopsis thaliana. The web tool identifies the A. thaliana genes harbouring the sequence in a defined promoter region and compares the expression of these genes with microarray data. The result is a hierarchy of abiotic and biotic stress conditions to which these genes are most likely responsive. When testing the performance of the web tool, known cis-regulatory sequences were submitted to the ‘in silico expression analysis’ resulting in the correct identification of the associated stress conditions. When using a recently identified novel elicitor-responsive sequence, a WT-box (CGACTTTT), the ‘in silico expression analysis’ predicts that genes harbouring this sequence in their promoter are most likely Botrytis cinerea induced. Consistent with this prediction, the strongest induction of a reporter gene harbouring this sequence in the promoter is observed with B. cinerea in transgenic A. thaliana.
Database URL:
PMCID: PMC3983564  PMID: 24727366
22.  Improving analysis of transcription factor binding sites within ChIP-Seq data based on topological motif enrichment 
BMC Genomics  2014;15(1):472.
Chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) coupled to high-throughput sequencing (ChIP-Seq) techniques can reveal DNA regions bound by transcription factors (TF). Analysis of the ChIP-Seq regions is now a central component in gene regulation studies. The need remains strong for methods to improve the interpretation of ChIP-Seq data and the study of specific TF binding sites (TFBS).
We introduce a set of methods to improve the interpretation of ChIP-Seq data, including the inference of mediating TFs based on TFBS motif over-representation analysis and the subsequent study of spatial distribution of TFBSs. TFBS over-representation analysis applied to ChIP-Seq data is used to detect which TFBSs arise more frequently than expected by chance. Visualization of over-representation analysis results with new composition-bias plots reveals systematic bias in over-representation scores. We introduce the BiasAway background generating software to resolve the problem. A heuristic procedure based on topological motif enrichment relative to the ChIP-Seq peaks’ local maximums highlights peaks likely to be directly bound by a TF of interest. The results suggest that on average two-thirds of a ChIP-Seq dataset’s peaks are bound by the ChIP’d TF; the origin of the remaining peaks remaining undetermined. Additional visualization methods allow for the study of both inter-TFBS spatial relationships and motif-flanking sequence properties, as demonstrated in case studies for TBP and ZNF143/THAP11.
Topological properties of TFBS within ChIP-Seq datasets can be harnessed to better interpret regulatory sequences. Using GC content corrected TFBS over-representation analysis, combined with visualization techniques and analysis of the topological distribution of TFBS, we can distinguish peaks likely to be directly bound by a TF. The new methods will empower researchers for exploration of gene regulation and TF binding.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-472) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4082612  PMID: 24927817
Chromatin immunoprecipitation; ChIP-Seq; Motif prediction; Over-representation analysis; Regulation; Sequence analysis; Transcription factor; Transcription factor binding site; Visualization
23.  Meta-analysis of breast cancer microarray studies in conjunction with conserved cis-elements suggest patterns for coordinate regulation 
BMC Bioinformatics  2008;9:63.
Gene expression measurements from breast cancer (BrCa) tumors are established clinical predictive tools to identify tumor subtypes, identify patients showing poor/good prognosis, and identify patients likely to have disease recurrence. However, diverse breast cancer datasets in conjunction with diagnostic clinical arrays show little overlap in the sets of genes identified. One approach to identify a set of consistently dysregulated candidate genes in these tumors is to employ meta-analysis of multiple independent microarray datasets. This allows one to compare expression data from a diverse collection of breast tumor array datasets generated on either cDNA or oligonucleotide arrays.
We gathered expression data from 9 published microarray studies examining estrogen receptor positive (ER+) and estrogen receptor negative (ER-) BrCa tumor cases from the Oncomine database. We performed a meta-analysis and identified genes that were universally up or down regulated with respect to ER+ versus ER- tumor status. We surveyed both the proximal promoter and 3' untranslated regions (3'UTR) of our top-ranking genes in each expression group to test whether common sequence elements may contribute to the observed expression patterns. Utilizing a combination of known transcription factor binding sites (TFBS), evolutionarily conserved mammalian promoter and 3'UTR motifs, and microRNA (miRNA) seed sequences, we identified numerous motifs that were disproportionately represented between the two gene classes suggesting a common regulatory network for the observed gene expression patterns.
Some of the genes we identified distinguish key transcripts previously seen in array studies, while others are newly defined. Many of the genes identified as overexpressed in ER- tumors were previously identified as expression markers for neoplastic transformation in multiple human cancers. Moreover, our motif analysis identified a collection of specific cis-acting target sites which may collectively play a role in the differential gene expression patterns observed in ER+ versus ER- breast cancer tumors. Importantly, the gene sets and associated DNA motifs provide a starting point with which to explore the mechanistic basis for the observed expression patterns in breast tumors.
PMCID: PMC2275244  PMID: 18226260
24.  Jaccard index based similarity measure to compare transcription factor binding site models 
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.
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).
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 and in supplementary materials.
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
25.  Molecular and biochemical characterization of the tetralin degradation pathway in Rhodococcus sp. strain TFB 
Microbial biotechnology  2009;2(2):262-273.
The tetralin biodegradation pathway in Rhodococcus sp. strain TFB, a Gram‐positive bacterium resistant to genetic manipulation, was characterized using a proteomic approach. Relative protein expression in cell free extracts from tetralin‐ and glucose‐grown cells was compared using the 2D‐DIGE technique. Identification of proteins specifically expressed in tetralin‐grown cells was used to characterize a complete set of genes involved in tetralin degradation by reverse genetics. We propose a tetralin degradation pathway analogous to that described for Sphingomonas macrogolitabida strain TFA. TFB thn genes are organized into three operons; two contain all of the structural genes and are transcribed in the same direction, while the third operon, thnST, is transcribed in the opposite direction and encodes a two‐component regulatory system, whose transcription is higher in tetralin‐grown cells. In addition to tetralin induction, TFB thn structural genes are subject to glucose repression. Primer extension assays and translational thnA1::gfp and thnS::gfp fusions were used to characterize putative promoter regions. A mutational analysis of the thnA1 promoter region allowed us to define nucleotides within the cis regulatory elements that are important for the control of thn gene expression.
PMCID: PMC3815846  PMID: 21261920

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