DNA-binding proteins such as transcription factors use DNA-binding domains (DBDs) to bind to specific sequences in the genome to initiate many important biological functions. Accurate prediction of such target sequences, often represented by position weight matrices (PWMs), is an important step to understand many biological processes. Recent studies have shown that knowledge-based potential functions can be applied on protein-DNA co-crystallized structures to generate PWMs that are considerably consistent with experimental data. However, this success has not been extended to DNA-binding proteins lacking co-crystallized structures. This study aims at investigating the possibility of predicting the DNA sequences bound by DNA-binding proteins from the proteins' unbound structures (structures of the unbound state). Given an unbound query protein and a template complex, the proposed method first employs structure alignment to generate synthetic protein-DNA complexes for the query protein. Once a complex is available, an atomic-level knowledge-based potential function is employed to predict PWMs characterizing the sequences to which the query protein can bind. The evaluation of the proposed method is based on seven DNA-binding proteins, which have structures of both DNA-bound and unbound forms for prediction as well as annotated PWMs for validation. Since this work is the first attempt to predict target sequences of DNA-binding proteins from their unbound structures, three types of structural variations that presumably influence the prediction accuracy were examined and discussed. Based on the analyses conducted in this study, the conformational change of proteins upon binding DNA was shown to be the key factor. This study sheds light on the challenge of predicting the target DNA sequences of a protein lacking co-crystallized structures, which encourages more efforts on the structure alignment-based approaches in addition to docking- and homology modeling-based approaches for generating synthetic complexes.
Predicting binding sites of a transcription factor in the genome is an important, but challenging, issue in studying gene regulation. In the past decade, a large number of protein–DNA co-crystallized structures available in the Protein Data Bank have facilitated the understanding of interacting mechanisms between transcription factors and their binding sites. Recent studies have shown that both physics-based and knowledge-based potential functions can be applied to protein–DNA complex structures to deliver position weight matrices (PWMs) that are consistent with the experimental data. To further use the available structural models, the proposed Web server, PiDNA, aims at first constructing reliable PWMs by applying an atomic-level knowledge-based scoring function on numerous in silico mutated complex structures, and then using the PWM constructed by the structure models with small energy changes to predict the interaction between proteins and DNA sequences. With PiDNA, the users can easily predict the relative preference of all the DNA sequences with limited mutations from the native sequence co-crystallized in the model in a single run. More predictions on sequences with unlimited mutations can be realized by additional requests or file uploading. Three types of information can be downloaded after prediction: (i) the ranked list of mutated sequences, (ii) the PWM constructed by the favourable mutated structures, and (iii) any mutated protein–DNA complex structure models specified by the user. This study first shows that the constructed PWMs are similar to the annotated PWMs collected from databases or literature. Second, the prediction accuracy of PiDNA in detecting relatively high-specificity sites is evaluated by comparing the ranked lists against in vitro experiments from protein-binding microarrays. Finally, PiDNA is shown to be able to select the experimentally validated binding sites from 10 000 random sites with high accuracy. With PiDNA, the users can design biological experiments based on the predicted sequence specificity and/or request mutated structure models for further protein design. As well, it is expected that PiDNA can be incorporated with chromatin immunoprecipitation data to refine large-scale inference of in vivo protein–DNA interactions. PiDNA is available at: http://dna.bime.ntu.edu.tw/pidna.
The discovery of regulatory motifs enriched in sets of DNA or RNA sequences is fundamental to the analysis of a great variety of functional genomics experiments. These motifs usually represent binding sites of proteins or non-coding RNAs, which are best described by position weight matrices (PWMs). We have recently developed XXmotif, a de novo motif discovery method that is able to directly optimize the statistical significance of PWMs. XXmotif can also score conservation and positional clustering of motifs. The XXmotif server provides (i) a list of significantly overrepresented motif PWMs with web logos and E-values; (ii) a graph with color-coded boxes indicating the positions of selected motifs in the input sequences; (iii) a histogram of the overall positional distribution for selected motifs and (iv) a page for each motif with all significant motif occurrences, their P-values for enrichment, conservation and localization, their sequence contexts and coordinates. Free access: http://xxmotif.genzentrum.lmu.de.
Correct interactions between transcription factors (TFs) and their binding sites (TFBSs) are of central importance to gene regulation. Recently developed chromatin-immunoprecipitation DNA chip (ChIP-chip) techniques and the phylogenetic footprinting method provide ways to identify TFBSs with high precision. In this study, we constructed a user-friendly interactive platform for dynamic binding site mapping using ChIP-chip data and phylogenetic footprinting as two filters. MYBS (Mining Yeast Binding Sites) is a comprehensive web server that integrates an array of both experimentally verified and predicted position weight matrixes (PWMs) from eleven databases, including 481 binding motif consensus sequences and 71 PWMs that correspond to 183 TFs. MYBS users can search within this platform for motif occurrences (possible binding sites) in the promoters of genes of interest via simple motif or gene queries in conjunction with the above two filters. In addition, MYBS enables users to visualize in parallel the potential regulators for a given set of genes, a feature useful for finding potential regulatory associations between TFs. MYBS also allows users to identify target gene sets of each TF pair, which could be used as a starting point for further explorations of TF combinatorial regulation. MYBS is available at http://cg1.iis.sinica.edu.tw/~mybs/.
We present the webserver 3D transcription factor (3DTF) to compute position-specific weight matrices (PWMs) of transcription factors using a knowledge-based statistical potential derived from crystallographic data on protein–DNA complexes. Analysis of available structures that can be used to construct PWMs shows that there are hundreds of 3D structures from which PWMs could be derived, as well as thousands of proteins homologous to these. Therefore, we created 3DTF, which delivers binding matrices given the experimental or modeled protein–DNA complex. The webserver can be used by biologists to derive novel PWMs for transcription factors lacking known binding sites and is freely accessible at http://www.gene-regulation.com/pub/programs/3dtf/.
Most of the position weight matrix (PWM) based bioinformatics methods developed to predict transcription factor binding sites (TFBS) assume each nucleotide in the sequence motif contributes independently to the interaction between protein and DNA sequence, usually producing high false positive predictions. The increasing availability of TF enrichment profiles from recent ChIP-Seq methodology facilitates the investigation of dependent structure and accurate prediction of TFBSs. We develop a novel Tree-based PWM (TPWM) approach to accurately model the interaction between TF and its binding site. The whole tree-structured PWM could be considered as a mixture of different conditional-PWMs. We propose a discriminative approach, called TPD (TPWM based Discriminative Approach), to construct the TPWM from the ChIP-Seq data with a pre-existing PWM. To achieve the maximum discriminative power between the positive and negative datasets, the cutoff value is determined based on the Matthew Correlation Coefficient (MCC). The resulting TPWMs are evaluated with respect to accuracy on extensive synthetic datasets. We then apply our TPWM discriminative approach on several real ChIP-Seq datasets to refine the current TFBS models stored in the TRANSFAC database. Experiments on both the simulated and real ChIP-Seq data show that the proposed method starting from existing PWM has consistently better performance than existing tools in detecting the TFBSs. The improved accuracy is the result of modelling the complete dependent structure of the motifs and better prediction of true positive rate. The findings could lead to better understanding of the mechanisms of TF-DNA interactions.
Position weight matrices (PWMs) have become a tool of choice for the identification of transcription factor binding sites in DNA sequences. DNA-binding proteins often show degeneracy in their binding requirement and thus the overall binding specificity of many proteins is unknown and remains an active area of research. Although existing PWMs are more reliable predictors than consensus string matching, they generally result in a high number of false positive hits. Our previous study introduced a promising approach to PWM refinement in which known motifs are used to computationally mine putative binding sites directly from aligned promoter regions using composition of similar sites. In the present study, we extended this technique originally tested on single examples of transcription factors (TFs) and showed its capability to optimize PWM performance to predict new binding sites in the fruit fly genome. We propose refined PWMs in mono- and dinucleotide versions similarly computed for a large variety of transcription factors of Drosophila melanogaster. Along with the addition of many auxiliary sites the optimization includes variation of the PWM motif length, the binding sites location on the promoters and the PWM score threshold. To assess the predictive performance of the refined PWMs we compared them to conventional TRANSFAC and JASPAR sources. The results have been verified using performed tests and literature review. Overall, the refined PWMs containing putative sites derived from real promoter content processed using optimized parameters had better general accuracy than conventional PWMs.
The structures of DNA–protein complexes have illuminated the diversity of DNA–protein binding mechanisms shown by different protein families. This lack of generality could pose a great challenge for predicting DNA–protein interactions. To address this issue, we have developed a knowledge-based method, DNA-binding Domain Hunter (DBD-Hunter), for identifying DNA-binding proteins and associated binding sites. The method combines structural comparison and the evaluation of a statistical potential, which we derive to describe interactions between DNA base pairs and protein residues. We demonstrate that DBD-Hunter is an accurate method for predicting DNA-binding function of proteins, and that DNA-binding protein residues can be reliably inferred from the corresponding templates if identified. In benchmark tests on ∼4000 proteins, our method achieved an accuracy of 98% and a precision of 84%, which significantly outperforms three previous methods. We further validate the method on DNA-binding protein structures determined in DNA-free (apo) state. We show that the accuracy of our method is only slightly affected on apo-structures compared to the performance on holo-structures cocrystallized with DNA. Finally, we apply the method to ∼1700 structural genomics targets and predict that 37 targets with previously unknown function are likely to be DNA-binding proteins. DBD-Hunter is freely available at http://cssb.biology.gatech.edu/skolnick/webservice/DBD-Hunter/.
Scanning through genomes for potential transcription factor binding sites (TFBSs) is becoming increasingly important in this post-genomic era. The position weight matrix (PWM) is the standard representation of TFBSs utilized when scanning through sequences for potential binding sites. However, many transcription factor (TF) motifs are short and highly degenerate, and methods utilizing PWMs to scan for sites are plagued by false positives. Furthermore, many important TFs do not have well-characterized PWMs, making identification of potential binding sites even more difficult. One approach to the identification of sites for these TFs has been to use the 3D structure of the TF to predict the DNA structure around the TF and then to generate a PWM from the predicted 3D complex structure. However, this approach is dependent on the similarity of the predicted structure to the native structure. We introduce here a novel approach to identify TFBSs utilizing structure information that can be applied to TFs without characterized PWMs, as long as a 3D complex structure (TF/DNA) exists. This approach utilizes an energy function that is uniquely trained on each structure. Our approach leads to increased prediction accuracy and robustness compared with those using a more general energy function. The software is freely available upon request.
Many dimeric protein complexes bind cooperatively to families of bipartite nucleic acid sequence elements, which consist of pairs of conserved half-site sequences separated by intervening distances that vary among individual sites.
We introduce the Bipad Server , a web interface to predict sequence elements embedded within unaligned sequences. Either a bipartite model, consisting of a pair of one-block position weight matrices (PWM's) with a gap distribution, or a single PWM matrix for contiguous single block motifs may be produced. The Bipad program performs multiple local alignment by entropy minimization and cyclic refinement using a stochastic greedy search strategy. The best models are refined by maximizing incremental information contents among a set of potential models with varying half site and gap lengths.
The web service generates information positional weight matrices, identifies binding site motifs, graphically represents the set of discovered elements as a sequence logo, and depicts the gap distribution as a histogram. Server performance was evaluated by generating a collection of bipartite models for distinct DNA binding proteins.
Identifying transcription factor binding sites (TFBS) in silico is key in understanding gene regulation. TFBS are string patterns that exhibit some variability, commonly modelled as “position weight matrices” (PWMs). Though convenient, the PWM has significant limitations, in particular the assumed independence of positions within the binding motif; and predictions based on PWMs are usually not very specific to known functional sites. Analysis here on binding sites in yeast suggests that correlation of dinucleotides is not limited to near-neighbours, but can extend over considerable gaps.
I describe a straightforward generalization of the PWM model, that considers frequencies of dinucleotides instead of individual nucleotides. Unlike previous efforts, this method considers all dinucleotides within an extended binding region, and does not make an attempt to determine a priori the significance of particular dinucleotide correlations. I describe how to use a “dinucleotide weight matrix” (DWM) to predict binding sites, dealing in particular with the complication that its entries are not independent probabilities. Benchmarks show, for many factors, a dramatic improvement over PWMs in precision of predicting known targets. In most cases, significant further improvement arises by extending the commonly defined “core motifs” by about 10bp on either side. Though this flanking sequence shows no strong motif at the nucleotide level, the predictive power of the dinucleotide model suggests that the “signature” in DNA sequence of protein-binding affinity extends beyond the core protein-DNA contact region.
While computationally more demanding and slower than PWM-based approaches, this dinucleotide method is straightforward, both conceptually and in implementation, and can serve as a basis for future improvements.
Gene expression in the Drosophila embryo is controlled by functional interactions between a large network of protein transcription factors (TFs) and specific sequences in DNA cis-regulatory modules (CRMs). The binding site sequences for any TF can be experimentally determined and represented in a position weight matrix (PWM). PWMs can then be used to predict the location of TF binding sites in other regions of the genome, although there are limitations to this approach as currently implemented.
In this proof-of-principle study, we analyze 127 CRMs and focus on four TFs that control transcription of target genes along the anterio-posterior axis of the embryo early in development. For all four of these TFs, there is some degree of conserved flanking sequence that extends beyond the predicted binding regions. A potential role for these conserved flanking sequences may be to enhance the specificity of TF binding, as the abundance of these sequences is greatly diminished when we examine only predicted high-affinity binding sites.
Expanding PWMs to include sequence context-dependence will increase the information content in PWMs and facilitate a more efficient functional identification and dissection of CRMs.
Transcription factor; Binding site; Position weight matrix; Enhancer; Cis-regulatory module; Drosophila
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.
promoter; tissue-specific gene expression; position weight matrix; regulatory motif
Transcription factor-DNA interactions, central to cellular regulation and control, are commonly described by position weight matrices (PWMs). These matrices are frequently used to predict transcription factor binding sites in regulatory regions of DNA to complement and guide further experimental investigation. The DNA sequence preferences of transcription factors, encoded in PWMs, are dictated primarily by select residues within the DNA binding domain(s) that interact directly with DNA. Therefore, the DNA binding properties of homologous transcription factors with identical DNA binding domains may be characterized by PWMs derived from different species. Accordingly, we have implemented a fully automated domain-level homology searching method for identical DNA binding sequences.
By applying the domain-level homology search to transcription factors with existing PWMs in the JASPAR and TRANSFAC databases, we were able to significantly increase coverage in terms of the total number of PWMs associated with a given species, assign PWMs to transcription factors that did not previously have any associations, and increase the number of represented species with PWMs over an order of magnitude. Additionally, using protein binding microarray (PBM) data, we have validated the domain-level method by demonstrating that transcription factor pairs with matching DNA binding domains exhibit comparable DNA binding specificity predictions to transcription factor pairs with completely identical sequences.
The increased coverage achieved herein demonstrates the potential for more thorough species-associated investigation of protein-DNA interactions using existing resources. The PWM scanning results highlight the challenging nature of transcription factors that contain multiple DNA binding domains, as well as the impact of motif discovery on the ability to predict DNA binding properties. The method is additionally suitable for identifying domain-level homology mappings to enable utilization of additional information sources in the study of transcription factors. The domain-level homology search method, resulting PWM mappings, web-based user interface, and web API are publicly available at http://dodoma.systemsbiology.netdodoma.systemsbiology.net.
Computational identification of transcription factor binding sites is an important research area of computational biology. Positional weight matrix (PWM) is a model to describe the sequence pattern of binding sites. Usually, transcription factor binding sites prediction methods based on PWMs require user-defined thresholds. The arbitrary threshold and also the relatively low specificity of the algorithm prevent the result of such an analysis from being properly interpreted. In this study, a method was developed to identify over-represented cis-elements with PWM-based similarity scores. Three sets of closely related promoters were analyzed, and only over- represented motifs with high PWM similarity scores were reported. The thresholds to evaluate the similarity scores to the PWMs of putative transcription factors binding sites can also be automatically determined during the analysis, which can also be used in further research with the same PWMs. The online program is available on the website: http://www.bioinfo.tsinghua.edu.cn/∼zhengjsh/OTFBS/.
We identified binding sites for Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) nuclear antigen 1 (EBNA1) in the human genome using chromatin immunoprecipitation and microarrays. The sequences for these newly identified sites were used to generate a position-weighted matrix (PWM) for EBNA1's DNA-binding sites. This PWM helped identify additional DNA-binding sites for EBNA1 in the genomes of EBV, Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus, and cercopithecine herpesvirus 15 (CeHV-15) (also called herpesvirus papio 15). In particular, a homologue of the Rep* locus in EBV was predicted in the genome of CeHV-15, which is notable because Rep* of EBV was not predicted by the previously developed consensus sequence for EBNA1's binding DNA. The Rep* of CeHV-15 functions as an origin of DNA synthesis in the EBV-positive cell line Raji; this finding thus builds on a set of DNA-binding sites for EBNA1 predicted in silico.
Position-weight matrices (PWMs) are broadly used to locate transcription factor binding sites in DNA sequences. The majority of existing PWMs provide a low level of both sensitivity and specificity. We present a new computational algorithm, a modification of the Staden–Bucher approach, that improves the PWM. We applied the proposed technique on the PWM of the GC-box, binding site for Sp1. The comparison of old and new PWMs shows that the latter increase both sensitivity and specificity. The statistical parameters of GC-box distribution in promoter regions and in the human genome, as well as in each chromosome, are presented. The majority of commonly used PWMs are the 4-row mononucleotide matrices, although 16-row dinucleotide matrices are known to be more informative. The algorithm efficiently determines the 16-row matrices and preliminary results show that such matrices provide better results than 4-row matrices.
Proteins with sequence-specific DNA binding function are important for a wide range of biological activities. De novo prediction of their DNA-binding specificities from sequence alone would be a great aid in inferring cellular networks. Here we introduce a method for predicting DNA-binding specificities for Cys2His2 zinc fingers (C2H2-ZFs), the largest family of DNA-binding proteins in metazoans. We develop a general approach, based on empirical calculations of pairwise amino acid–nucleotide interaction energies, for predicting position weight matrices (PWMs) representing DNA-binding specificities for C2H2-ZF proteins. We predict DNA-binding specificities on a per-finger basis and merge predictions for C2H2-ZF domains that are arrayed within sequences. We test our approach on a diverse set of natural C2H2-ZF proteins with known binding specificities and demonstrate that for >85% of the proteins, their predicted PWMs are accurate in 50% of their nucleotide positions. For proteins with several zinc finger isoforms, we show via case studies that this level of accuracy enables us to match isoforms with their known DNA-binding specificities. A web server for predicting a PWM given a protein containing C2H2-ZF domains is available online at http://zf.princeton.edu and can be used to aid in protein engineering applications and in genome-wide searches for transcription factor targets.
Binding of many eukaryotic transcription regulatory proteins to their DNA recognition sequences results in conformational changes in DNA. To test the effect of altering DNA topology by prebending a transcription factor binding site, we examined the interaction of the estrogen receptor (ER) DNA binding domain (DBD) with prebent estrogen response elements (EREs). When the ERE in minicircle DNA was prebent toward the major groove, which is in the same direction as the ER-induced DNA bend, there was no significant effect on ER DBD binding relative to the linear counterparts. However, when the ERE was bent toward the minor groove, in a direction that opposes the ER-induced DNA bend, there was a four- to eightfold reduction in ER DBD binding. Since reduced binding was also observed with the ERE in nicked circles, the reduction in binding was not due to torsional force induced by binding of ER DBD to the prebent ERE in covalently closed minicircles. To determine the mechanism responsible for reduced binding to the prebent ERE, we examined the effect of prebending the ERE on the association and dissociation of the ER DBD. Binding of the ER DBD to ERE-containing minicircles was rapid when the EREs were prebent toward either the major or minor groove of the DNA (k(on) of 9.9 x 10(6) to 1.7 x 10(7) M(-1) s(-1)). Prebending the ERE toward the minor groove resulted in an increase in k(off) of four- to fivefold. Increased dissociation of the ER DBD from the ERE is, therefore, the major factor responsible for reduced binding of the ER DBD to an ERE prebent toward the minor groove. These data provide the first direct demonstration that the interaction of a eukaryotic transcription factor with its recognition sequence can be strongly influenced by altering DNA topology through prebending the DNA.
Summary: The transcriptional activator AREA is a member of the GATA family of transcription factors and mediates nitrogen metabolite repression in the fungus Aspergillus nidulans. The nutritional versatility of A. nidulans and its amenability to classical and reverse genetic manipulations make the AREA DNA binding domain (DBD) a useful model for analyzing GATA family DBDs, particularly as structures of two AREA-DNA complexes have been determined. The 109 extant mutant forms of the AREA DBD surveyed here constitute one of the highest totals of eukaryotic transcription factor DBD mutants, are discussed in light of the roles of individual residues, and are compared to corresponding mutant sequence changes in other fungal GATA factor DBDs. Other topics include delineation of the DBD using both homology and mutational truncation, use of frameshift reversion to detect regions of tolerance to mutational change, the finding that duplication of the DBD can apparently enhance AREA function, and use of the AREA system to analyze a vertebrate GATA factor DBD. Some major points to emerge from work on the AREA DBD are (i) tolerance to sequence change (with retention of function) is surprisingly great, (ii) mutational changes in a transcription factor can have widely differing, even opposing, effects on expression of different structural genes so that monitoring expression of one or even several structural genes can be insufficient and possibly misleading, and (iii) a mutational change altering local hydrophobic packing and DNA binding target specificity can markedly influence the behavior of mutational changes elsewhere in the DBD.
Position weight matrix (PWM) is not only one of the most widely used bioinformatic methods, but also a key component in more advanced computational algorithms (e.g., Gibbs sampler) for characterizing and discovering motifs in nucleotide or amino acid sequences. However, few generally applicable statistical tests are available for evaluating the significance of site patterns, PWM, and PWM scores (PWMS) of putative motifs. Statistical significance tests of the PWM output, that is, site-specific frequencies, PWM itself, and PWMS, are in disparate sources and have never been collected in a single paper, with the consequence that many implementations of PWM do not include any significance test. Here I review PWM-based methods used in motif characterization and prediction (including a detailed illustration of the Gibbs sampler for de novo motif discovery), present statistical and probabilistic rationales behind statistical significance tests relevant to PWM, and illustrate their application with real data. The multiple comparison problem associated with the test of site-specific frequencies is best handled by false discovery rate methods. The test of PWM, due to the use of pseudocounts, is best done by resampling methods. The test of individual PWMS for each sequence segment should be based on the extreme value distribution.
Summary: In the post-genomic era, the annotation of protein function facilitates the understanding of various biological processes. To extend the range of function annotation methods to the twilight zone of sequence identity, we have developed approaches that exploit both protein tertiary structure and/or protein sequence evolutionary relationships. To serve the scientific community, we have integrated the structure prediction tools, TASSER, TASSER-Lite and METATASSER, and the functional inference tools, FINDSITE, a structure-based algorithm for binding site prediction, Gene Ontology molecular function inference and ligand screening, EFICAz2, a sequence-based approach to enzyme function inference and DBD-hunter, an algorithm for predicting DNA-binding proteins and associated DNA-binding residues, into a unified web resource, Protein Structure and Function prediction Resource (PSiFR).
Availability and implementation: PSiFR is freely available for use on the web at http://psifr.cssb.biology.gatech.edu/
Finding where transcription factors (TFs) bind to the DNA is of key importance to decipher gene regulation at a transcriptional level. Classically, computational prediction of TF binding sites (TFBSs) is based on basic position weight matrices (PWMs) which quantitatively score binding motifs based on the observed nucleotide patterns in a set of TFBSs for the corresponding TF. Such models make the strong assumption that each nucleotide participates independently in the corresponding DNA-protein interaction and do not account for flexible length motifs. We introduce transcription factor flexible models (TFFMs) to represent TF binding properties. Based on hidden Markov models, TFFMs are flexible, and can model both position interdependence within TFBSs and variable length motifs within a single dedicated framework. The availability of thousands of experimentally validated DNA-TF interaction sequences from ChIP-seq allows for the generation of models that perform as well as PWMs for stereotypical TFs and can improve performance for TFs with flexible binding characteristics. We present a new graphical representation of the motifs that convey properties of position interdependence. TFFMs have been assessed on ChIP-seq data sets coming from the ENCODE project, revealing that they can perform better than both PWMs and the dinucleotide weight matrix extension in discriminating ChIP-seq from background sequences. Under the assumption that ChIP-seq signal values are correlated with the affinity of the TF-DNA binding, we find that TFFM scores correlate with ChIP-seq peak signals. Moreover, using available TF-DNA affinity measurements for the Max TF, we demonstrate that TFFMs constructed from ChIP-seq data correlate with published experimentally measured DNA-binding affinities. Finally, TFFMs allow for the straightforward computation of an integrated TF occupancy score across a sequence. These results demonstrate the capacity of TFFMs to accurately model DNA-protein interactions, while providing a single unified framework suitable for the next generation of TFBS prediction.
Transcription factors are critical proteins for sequence-specific control of transcriptional regulation. Finding where these proteins bind to DNA is of key importance for global efforts to decipher the complex mechanisms of gene regulation. Greater understanding of the regulation of transcription promises to improve human genetic analysis by specifying critical gene components that have eluded investigators. Classically, computational prediction of transcription factor binding sites (TFBS) is based on models giving weights to each nucleotide at each position. We introduce a novel statistical model for the prediction of TFBS tolerant of a broader range of TFBS configurations than can be conveniently accommodated by existing methods. The new models are designed to address the confounding properties of nucleotide composition, inter-positional sequence dependence and variable lengths (e.g. variable spacing between half-sites) observed in the more comprehensive experimental data now emerging. The new models generate scores consistent with DNA-protein affinities measured experimentally and can be represented graphically, retaining desirable attributes of past methods. It demonstrates the capacity of the new approach to accurately assess DNA-protein interactions. With the rich experimental data generated from chromatin immunoprecipitation experiments, a greater diversity of TFBS properties has emerged that can now be accommodated within a single predictive approach.
The identification of transcription factor binding sites (TFBSs) on genomic DNA is of crucial importance for understanding and predicting regulatory elements in gene networks. TFBS motifs are commonly described by Position Weight Matrices (PWMs), in which each DNA base pair contributes independently to the transcription factor (TF) binding. However, this description ignores correlations between nucleotides at different positions, and is generally inaccurate: analysing fly and mouse in vivo ChIPseq data, we show that in most cases the PWM model fails to reproduce the observed statistics of TFBSs. To overcome this issue, we introduce the pairwise interaction model (PIM), a generalization of the PWM model. The model is based on the principle of maximum entropy and explicitly describes pairwise correlations between nucleotides at different positions, while being otherwise as unconstrained as possible. It is mathematically equivalent to considering a TF-DNA binding energy that depends additively on each nucleotide identity at all positions in the TFBS, like the PWM model, but also additively on pairs of nucleotides. We find that the PIM significantly improves over the PWM model, and even provides an optimal description of TFBS statistics within statistical noise. The PIM generalizes previous approaches to interdependent positions: it accounts for co-variation of two or more base pairs, and predicts secondary motifs, while outperforming multiple-motif models consisting of mixtures of PWMs. We analyse the structure of pairwise interactions between nucleotides, and find that they are sparse and dominantly located between consecutive base pairs in the flanking region of TFBS. Nonetheless, interactions between pairs of non-consecutive nucleotides are found to play a significant role in the obtained accurate description of TFBS statistics. The PIM is computationally tractable, and provides a general framework that should be useful for describing and predicting TFBSs beyond PWMs.
Knowledge of transcription factor-DNA binding patterns is crucial for understanding gene transcription. Numerous DNA-binding proteins are annotated as transcription factors in the literature, however, for many of them the corresponding DNA-binding motifs remain uncharacterized.
The position weight matrices (PWMs) of transcription factors from different structural classes have been determined using a knowledge-based statistical potential. The scoring function calibrated against crystallographic data on protein-DNA contacts recovered PWMs of various members of widely studied transcription factor families such as p53 and NF-κB. Where it was possible, extensive comparison to experimental binding affinity data and other physical models was made. Although the p50p50, p50RelB, and p50p65 dimers belong to the same family, particular differences in their PWMs were detected, thereby suggesting possibly different in vivo binding modes. The PWMs of p63 and p73 were computed on the basis of homology modeling and their performance was studied using upstream sequences of 85 p53/p73-regulated human genes. Interestingly, about half of the p63 and p73 hits reported by the Match algorithm in the altogether 126 promoters lay more than 2 kb upstream of the corresponding transcription start sites, which deviates from the common assumption that most regulatory sites are located more proximal to the TSS. The fact that in most of the cases the binding sites of p63 and p73 did not overlap with the p53 sites suggests that p63 and p73 could influence the p53 transcriptional activity cooperatively. The newly computed p50p50 PWM recovered 5 more experimental binding sites than the corresponding TRANSFAC matrix, while both PWMs showed comparable receiver operator characteristics.
A novel algorithm was developed to calculate position weight matrices from protein-DNA complex structures. The proposed algorithm was extensively validated against experimental data. The method was further combined with Homology Modeling to obtain PWMs of factors for which crystallographic complexes with DNA are not yet available. The performance of PWMs obtained in this work in comparison to traditionally constructed matrices demonstrates that the structure-based approach presents a promising alternative to experimental determination of transcription factor binding properties.